1950 - 1992

"I would much rather have written a good poem of twenty lines than twenty books of scholarship which would not, for me, have any kind of lasting impact."

- Melvin Dixon

Born in Stamford, CT., Melvin Dixon earned a B.A. in American Studies from Wesleyan University in 1971, and his Ph.D. from Brown University in 1975. His Climbing Montmarte (1974) examined the Black American expatriate experience in France. From 1980 until his death, he was a Professor of Literature at Queens College. In 1983 he released the poetry collection Change of Territory, and in 1987 he wrote the critical study of African American literature, Ride Out the Wilderness: Geography and Identity in Afro-American Literature. His 1989 novel Trouble in Water dealt with African American life in the South and won the Charles H. and N. Mildred Nilon Excellence in Minority Fiction Award. In 1990 he released the novel Vanishing Rooms, a gay love story set amidst a landscape of urban violence, which was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Fiction. In addition to his fiction and non-fiction work, Dixon was a skilled translator of French literature. His translations include works by Haitian poet and novelist Jacques Roumain; Richard Wright; and Genevieve Fabre’s Drumbeats, Mass, and Metaphor: Contemporary Afro-American Theater; as well as The Collected Poetry of Leopold Sedar Senghor, poet and president of Senegal. Melvin Dixon explored what it meant to be a gay African American man with an openness and honesty that was both celebrated and criticized. Dixon died of an AIDS-related illness in 1992, one year after the death of his partner, Richard Horowitz. His posthumous poetry collection Love’s Instruments (1995) was a tribute to gay men whose lives were lost in the AIDS epidemic. The Melvin Dixon Critical Reader by Justin A. Joyce and Dwight A. McBride was released in 2006. Dixon’s papers – consisting of manuscripts, correspondence, and journals – are now part of the New York Public Library Collection.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity African American Black

Nations Affiliated United States

Era/Epoch AIDS Era (1980-present)

Field(s) of Contribution





Commemorations & Honors

Lambda Literary Award Nomination for Gay Men's Fiction for Vanishing Rooms

Charles H. and N. Mildred Nilon Excellence in Minority Fiction Award (1989)

Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Literature for Vanishing Rooms (1992)


Original Biography Author
Owen Keehnen
Biography Edited By
Victor Salvo
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell