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Oxford American Shifts as Editor Danielle Jackson Departs

3 min read

Danielle Amir Jackson is departing as editor of Oxford American, the Southern culture, literature and art quarterly that was transplanted from Oxford, Mississippi, to Arkansas 22 years ago.

Jackson, who joined the magazine in 2020, was named interim editor in chief when Eliza Borné departed to join the Central Arkansas Library System in March 2021. In August of that year, Jackson became the first Black top editor of the magazine, which Marc Smirnoff founded in 1992 in the hometown of William Faulkner.

Jackson, who led the magazine to a National Magazine Award nomination for general excellence, stepped down to focus on finishing her first book, “Honey’s Grill.” Farrar, Straus and Giroux of New York will publish the book, a study on women in the blues. The author is also starting a graduate program at New York University in the fall, according to a news release from the magazine.

OA used the occasion of Jackson’s leaving to announce a new digital-first edition of the publication, along with staffing changes and plans to hire a digital editor.

Under Jackson’s editorship, the magazine won the Whiting Foundation’s Literary Magazine Prize and several private and government grants, as well as a nomination for a James Beard Award for food writing. Likewise, its anthologies like “Best American” drew consistent acclaim.

The magazine’s executive director since 2021, Sara A. Lewis, will take over as interim editor.

High Praise

Lewis and OA Board Treasurer Enjoliqué Lett praised Jackson’s contributions to the magazine.

“The Oxford American flourished under Danielle’s creative vision and while we are saddened by her departure, we are more thrilled for her next endeavors,” Lett said in a statement.  “We are excited for the organization’s future and look forward to the continued artistic expression of the Southern narrative that we have come to expect and love.”

Lewis, who joined the magazine in 2017, called Jackson’s impact on the publication “immeasurable.”

Jackson’s editor’s letters highlighted ever issue, Lewis said in the release. “It was a thrill to get the magazine from the printer and experience her curation of stories and art—each edition an art object in and of itself.”

Lewis said she’s been lucky to fill several roles at OA. “I’m delighted to serve as interim editor of my favorite magazine and look forward to carrying on the tradition of this beautiful and vital print publication while overseeing the launch of an additional digital-first edition that will allow us to tell more stories, more often.”

The magazine promoted Shobhithan Kandasamy to interim assistant director, overseeing operations, finance and circulation strategy; and Christian Leus to interim managing editor. Lewis and Leus co-produce the Points South podcast and first worked together when Leus was an OA intern in 2017.

OA board member Jenny Davis, wife of University of Central Arkansas President Houston Davis, applauded Jackson’s “curation” of content. UCA has published the magazine since December 2004. Jackson “made each Oxford American issue a beautiful, cohesive chorus of diverse voices using various art forms to process and grapple with how the distinctive geography, topography, and history of the South impacts its citizens in the present moment,” Davis said in the release. “The literary tradition of the South and, in particular, the Oxford American, is better and stronger because of her vision, and the magazine looks forward to building on that tradition by utilizing technology to broaden the opportunities for Southern storytellers and artists.”

Digital Arm

The search for a digital editor is on, and a web-only version of OA will launch on OxfordAmerican.org. The digital arm of the organization “will focus on timely dispatches from the South offering nuance, context and narrative to stories underreported in the traditional news cycle,” the magazine said.

Jackson’s work will continue to appear.

OA’s Memphis Music Issue, featuring a limited-edition vinyl LP, is available for presale at OxfordAmericanGoods.org. A collection of Jackson’s Editor’s Letters is now online at OxfordAmerican.org.

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