Established in 1974 by graduate students in the MFA Program in Creative Writing, Black Warrior Review is named for the river that borders the campus of The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The city, the river, and the magazine all derive their names from a 16th-century Native American chief Tuskaloosa (also spelled “Tushkalusa”), whose name comes from two words of Creek or Choctaw origin—tasca, meaning “warriors,” and lusa, meaning “black.” In 1540, Chief Tuskaloosa battled the Spanish conquistador de Soto at Mabila, a fortified Native American settlement approximately one hundred miles north of present-day Mobile. Chief Tuskaloosa is thought to have been among those who perished.
BWR publishes fiction, nonfiction, poetry, comics, and art twice a year. Contributors include Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winners alongside emerging writers. Work appearing in BWR has been reprinted in the Pushcart Prize series, Best American Short Stories, Best American Poetry, PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize, New Stories from the South, the Wigleaf Top 50, and other anthologies.
In 2019, BWR was awarded a Whiting Literary Magazine Prize and was that year’s Print Development Grantee. The judges’ citation read, “Full of elegance and grit, fluidity and resolve, Black Warrior Review is a singular beacon for adventurous writing that shines forth from Alabama. This journal brings together what is gorgeous and necessary in literature today, treating each piece it publishes as an act of optimistic revolution. Black Warrior Review dissolves convention and leaves possibility in its place.”
BWR‘s past contributors have included Gary Soto, Barry Hannah, Edward Hirsch, William Stafford, Patricia Eakins, Alan Cheuse, C.D. Wright, Charles Simic, Diane Ackerman, James Tate, Stephen Dunn, W.S. Merwin, Annie Dillard, Yusef Komunyakaa, Mark Costello, Lee Upton, Jane Hirshfield, Tess Gallagher, Sydney Lea, William Kittredge, Charles Baxter, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, Rainer Maria Rilke, Billy Collins, Tony Hoagland, Rick Bass, Mary Ruefle, Jenny Offill, John Ashbery, Joy Williams, Rita Dove, Richard Wilbur, Mark Levine, Bob Hicok, Elizabeth Powell, Tony D’Souza, Alice Notley, Robyn Schiff, Anthony Doerr, Sherrie Flick, Anne Carson, Terrance Hayes, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Leslie Jamison, Lynne Tillman, Deb Olin Unferth, Jennifer Cheng, Lee Klein, Mary Jo Bang, Sabrina Orah Mark, Aimee Bender, Patricia Lockwood, Blake Butler, Paul Lisicky, Joshua Cohen, Roxane Gay, Joyelle McSweeney, Lucy Corin, Kristen Radtke, Vi Khi Nao, Sally Wen Mao, Sara June Woods, Elissa Washuta, sam sax, C Pam Zhang, Kaveh Akbar, Cathy Ulrich, Paul Tran, and Tyrese Coleman, among many others.