Roanoke Review was co-founded in 1967 by Roanoke College student Edward A. Tedeschi and teacher Henry Taylor, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for The Flying Change in 1986. Poet James Boatwright and novelist George Garrett served as advisory editors, and the first issue included work by William Stafford, Lee Smith, Kelly Cherry, William Jay Smith, and Malcom Cowley, among others.
Tedeschi and Taylor were ultimately replaced by Robert Walter, who edited the journal for the next thirty years. The Review was taken over in 2001 by Paul Hanstedt, who served as editor for the next fifteen years with the occasional interim leadership of Melanie Almeder and Mary Crockett Hill, who took on the role of editor in 2016.
In its half-century of existence, Roanoke Review has established itself as an accessible read, intent on publishing down-to-earth writers with something to say. The Review is also known for its fine cover art, which features some of the best artists of southwestern Virginia. Having shifted to an entirely digital format in 2015, the Review continues this tradition with a new on-line gallery.