Riché Richardson was born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama and lives in Ithaca, New York. She attended St. John the Baptist Catholic School (grades 1-8) and the historic St. Jude Educational Institute, from which she graduated in 1989. At Spelman College, she majored in English with minors in philosophy and women's studies and received her B.A. in 1993. She received her Ph.D. in American literature from Duke University in 1998, along with a Certificate in African and African American Studies. She spent the first 10 years of her academic career in the University of California system at the University of California, Davis and served as the campus representative for the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (PPFP) from 2006-08. She is a recipient of a Davis Humanities Institute Fellowship (2002) and an award from the university for Diversity and the Principles of Community (2008). In 2001, she received a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship and spent her fellowship year at the Johns Hopkins University. She is now professor of African American literature in the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University. She was the 2019-20 Olive B. O’Connor Visiting Distinguished Chair in English at Colgate University. Among her other fields of interest are American literature, American studies, gender studies, cultural studies, critical theory, and Southern studies. She is the 2016 recipient of the “Educator of the Year Award” from St. Jude Alumni & Friends. She is a 2017 Public Voices Fellow with the Op-Ed Project whose pieces have appeared in The New York Times, Public Books and Huff Post. Her interviews have been highlighted in news media such as NBC’s Today Show and Nightly News, CNN, Al Jazeera’s Newshour, On Point Talk, Let’s Go There, the AP, NPR, the New York Times, Time, the BBC, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Forbes, Business Insider, Elle and French Elle, Good Housekeeping, Essence, the Oprah Magazine, the Montgomery Advertiser and WSFA TV News. She served as the educator and collaborated with TED–Ed on the short animation “The Hidden Life of Rosa Parks”(2020). Her essays have been published in journals such as American Literature, Mississippi Quarterly, Forum for Modern Language Studies, Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, TransAtlantica, the Southern Quarterly, Black Camera, NKA, Phillis, Technoculture and Labrys. Her first book, Black Masculinity and the U.S. South: From Uncle Tom to Gangsta (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007), was highlighted by Choice Books among the "Outstanding Academic Titles of 2008," and by Eastern Book Company among the "Outstanding Academic Titles, Humanities, 2008." Her new book, Emancipation's Daughters: Reimagining Black Femininity and the National Body, was published by Duke University Press in 2021. She authored a new foreword for the 2018 edition of William Bradford Huie’s He Slew the Dreamer: My Search for the Truth about James Earl Ray and the Murder of Martin Luther King published by the University Press of Mississippi. She is now working on several other monographs, including "Black Women Writing the Global South: New Voices and Visions in Twenty-First Century African American Literature." She edits the New Southern Studies Series at the University of Georgia Press, a book series that has published 24 titles, for which she became co-editor in 2005. Formerly, she served on the Delta Research and Educational Foundation’s Sister Scholars Advisory Council affiliated with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and the Tompkins County Historical Commission of the Tompkins County Legislature.
Richardson is also a visual artist whose mixed-media appliqué art quilts have been featured in several museum exhibitions, beginning with a solo show of 19 works in 2008 at Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum. In 2013, Richardson served as the keynote speaker at the Rosa Parks Museum’s gala 100th birthday celebration of Rosa Parks. Richardson’s second solo art quilt exhibition there in 2015, “Portraits II: From Montgomery to Paris,” included 60 quilts, paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the 60th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and was dedicated to the memories of her grandparents, Joe Richardson and Emma Lou Jenkins Richardson. Richardson’s quilts are the subject of a chapter in Patricia A. Turner’s Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters (2009), the subject of the short film by Anne Crémieux and Géraldine Chouard entitled A Portrait of the Artist (2008) and are featured in Lauren Cross’s film The Skin Quilt Project (2010), a 2010 selection of the International Black Women’s Film Festival. Images of her art quilts have been published in catalogs and books and have illustrated articles in journals such as TransAtlantica and Transition. In January of 2009, Richardson was invited to Paris as a “Cultural Envoy” by the U.S. Embassy in France, a trip facilitated through a grant from the U.S. Department of State in tandem with the national exhibition “Un Patchwork de Cultures,” and honored with a talk, reception, exhibition and film screening at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in the city.