Aunt Chloe is an artistic response to an absence of truth—a void of representation of our narratives. Historically grounded in artist-activism, Aunt Chloe is situated at the crux of every social justice movement—forever bound by its mission of reclaiming, through creative expression, the time and space that black women have been denied. What began as a Spelman College literary magazine called Focus (published from the 1960’s until the late 2000’s) metamorphosed into Aunt Chloe in 2009, when its editor-in-chief, Kyla Marshell, conjured the legacies of two black women who share the name Chloe: the character Aunt Chloe in Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s 1872 poem,“Aunt Chloe’s Politics,” and Chloe Anthony Wofford (born Chloe Ardelia Wofford), otherwise known as Toni Morrison. She renamed the journal as a tribute to them, inspired by former Focus editor Chantal James’s suggestion that its new name be that of a woman and include “Aunt” (an honorific title for these ancestors). Chloe means “green shoot” or “blossoming,” as Kyla discovered. With this inaugural issue of the journal on its new online platform, those connotations again seem particularly relevant. Aunt Chloe continues to blossom—our current editorial collective is excited to expand its reach, furthering the vision of the editors and contributors who curated the journal before us, as we continue to reclaim and enlarge the spaces within which to create and narrate black women’s lives.
For forty-six years, Spelman College’s literary journal operated outside the confines of white/male criticism, driven instead by the intellectual, artistic, and leadership contributions of black women. During the journal’s hiatus from 2014-2019, a self-affirming space was lost. Much like Sage magazine of the Women’s Research & Resource Center, and the student newspaper, The Blueprint, Aunt Chloe has channeled the creative energies of young black women. In the magazine’s five-year absence, students adapted and found other ways to showcase their work. Many organizations at all three Atlanta University Center campuses created alternative platforms for poetry, creative nonfiction, and art. However, Aunt Chloe has provided what these other groups could not adequately fulfill—engagement focused on black women’s literary activism and radicalism.
Aunt Chloe is dedicated to the preservation of the black woman’s truth, as told through her own creative voice. The journal pays homage to three different manifestations of that truth: Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, whose birth name is Chloe Wofford; Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s persona “Aunt Chloe” who appears in a series of poems in Sketches of Southern Life; and, Chloe Henderson, a black domestic worker for Joel Chandler Harris (who rose to great prominence in the South for his adaptations—i.e., appropriations—of black American folklore, most notably the Uncle Remus tales). As its namesakes have been testament to the vital mission of honoring our experiences, knowledge, and wisdom, so will Aunt Chloe continue to be!