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Richard Yarborough is Professor of English at UCLA, where he teaches African American literature and 19th- and 20-century American fiction. He is also a Faculty Research Associate with UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, which he directed for six years. The recipient of the UCLA Distinguished Teaching Award in 1987, he has been recognized as an Outstanding Faculty Member by the African Student Union in 1997 and  received commendations from the City of Los Angeles in 1990 and the County of Los Angeles in 1991.

He has published extensively on African American literature, and he is the Associate General Editor of the Heath Anthology of American Literature (5th ed., 2006). Since 1988 he has been the editor of The Library of Black Literature reprint series published by the University Press of New England.