Nate Mills's research focuses on the political commitments of twentieth-century U.S. and African American literature, specifically literary engagements with the 1930s-1950s Communist left and with political movements of the Cold War and Civil Rights eras. His first book, Ragged Revolutionaries: The Lumpenproletariat and African American Marxism in Depression-Era Literature (University of Massachusetts Press, 2017), introduces the understudied Marxist concept of the lumpenproletariat (the "proletariat in rags," Marx's catch-all term for social outsiders and criminals) to literary studies. Ragged Revolutionaries argues that the lumpenproletariat inspired certain 1930s African American Communist writers--Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Margaret Walker--to craft an alternative practice of Marxist thought and aesthetics that accounted for the intersectional operations of capitalism, Jim Crow, and patriarchy in Depression America and imagined new routes of social transformation. His current project explores the history of twentieth-century African American writers' workshops, and considers how the activities of such institutions open up new ways of theorizing African American authorship and literary production.

Educational Background & Specialties
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Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: English Language and Literature, University of Michigan, ,
  • M.A.: English, Syracuse University, ,
  • B.A.: American Studies; English and Textual Studies (with honors), Syracuse University, ,


  • 20th-century U.S. and African American Literature
  • Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright
  • Literature and Culture of the Great Depression
  • The Literary Left and Communism in the US
  • African American Studies