BERNARD FONLON was a teacher, writer, editor of literary journals, and head of the African Literature Department at the University of Yaoundé. He passionately defended human rights in an often oppressive political atmosphere. When this noted Cameroonian man of letters died in 1986, a group of his friends from around the world decided to seek an appropriate way of honoring his memory.
Mobilized largely by Stephen Arnold (then Director of the Research Institute for African and Caribbean Literature -- RICLAC -- at the University of Alberta), these friends of Bernard Fonlon contributed to a memorial fund in his name. These contributions were matched by the Provincial Government of Alberta (Canada).
At about this time Lee NICHOLS announced his retirement. Nichols is a journalist whose positions in support of human rights and against racism are especially known among scholars of African literature for his historic Voice of America reports on the development of African literatures from the sixties to the present.
The executive committee of RICLAC felt it would be appropriate to associate his name to that of Bernard Fonlon, both having shared a commitment to democratic ideals, humanistic values, and literary excellence in Africa.
At its 1993 meeting in Guadeloupe, the Executive of the African Literature Association resolved that the Award be conferred regularly at the annual meetings of the ALA.