Institue Faculty

Project Directors

Frances Jones-Sneed, Ph.D., is professor of history, former department chairperson, and director of the Berkshire Center for the Study of History and Culture at MCLA.  For the past ten years, she has researched local history in Berkshire County. She has published and presented on oral history research and African Americans and their sense of place. She co-edited , The African American Heritage in the Upper Housatonic Valley (2006) and is currently at work on mongraphs of W.E.B. Du Bois and Rev. Samuel Harrison.

Richard Courage, Ph.D., is professor of English at Westchester Community College of SUNY where he teaches composition and literature courses, including African American literature.  He is co-author with Robert Bone of The Muse in Bronzeville: African American Creative Expression in Chicago, 1932-1950 (Rutgers UP, forthcoming). He has published and presented on Richard Wright, James Baldwin, the New Negro and the New Poetry, African American narrative, African American visual artists, abolitionist texts, teaching writing, and distance learning.

Robert  Paynter, Ph.D., is professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and author of Models of Spatial Inequality: Settlement Pattern and Social Process and co-editor of The Archaeology of Inequality: Material Culture, Domination and Resistance and Lines that Divide:  Historical Archaeologies of Race, Class, and Gender.  He is currently working with Warren Perry on a book on the archaeology of African American sites throughout New England and New York.  This work will be the basis of his colloquium presentation on the everyday life of African Americans in the Northeast. 


Leslie Brown is an Associate Professor of history at Williams College. She is the author of Upbuilding Black Durham: Gender, Class, and Black Community Development in the Urban South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), winner of the 2009 Frederick Jackson Turner Prize from the Organization of American Historians for the best book in U. S. History written by a first time author. She is at work currently on several projects, including a monograph on African American women and migration, a book about the black life in the segregated south, an edited collection of interviews from the Behind the Veil Project, and a compilation of writing and speeches by Shirley Chisholm.

Charles Dew is the Ephraim Williams Professor of American History at Williams College. His publications include Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2001). Bond of Iron: Master and Slave at Buffalo Forge. (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1994). Ironmaker to the Confederacy: Joseph R. Anderson and the Tredegar Iron Works. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966; revised edition, forthcoming, Library of Virginia, 1998).

Joanne Pope Melish is an Associate Professor in the history department at the University of Kentucky. Her fields of interest include the history of racial production in the United States, slavery and emancipation, nineteenth-century American culture and social history, and nineteenth-century African American history. Professor Melish's publications include Disowning Slavery: Gradual Emancipation and 'Race' in New England, 1789-1860 (Cornell, 1998). 

James T. Campbell is Edgar E. Robinson Professor in United States History at Stanford University. His research focuses on African American history and the wider history of the black Atlantic.  He is interested by the ways in which societies tell stories about their pasts, not only in textbooks and academic monographs but also in historic sites, museums, memorials, movies, and political movements. His publications include, Songs of Zion:  The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa  (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1995),  Middle Passages:  African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005  (New York:  The Penguin Press, 2006), and  Race, Nation, and Empire in American Life  (Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 2007)  (co-edited with Matthew Guterl and Robert Lee)

David Levering Lewis is the Julius Silver University Professor and Professor of History at New York University. Professor  Lewis publications include W.E.B. Du Bois: Biography of a Race, 1868-1919 (1993); W.E.B. Du Bois: The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963 (2000). Each Du Bois volume received the Pulitzer Prize for Biography (1994 and 2001) and the first Du Bois volume was also awarded the Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman Prize. Henry Holt and Company published W.E.B. Du Bois: A Biography, a single-volume version of the two-volume life and times of W.E.B. Du Bois in July 2009.   Mr. Lewis has compiled two editions: The Harlem Renaissance Reader (1994) and W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader (1995). A Small Nation of People: W.E. B. Du Bois & African American Portraits of Progress (2003), co-authored with Deborah Willis, was a commission from the Library of Congress. 

Amritjit Singh is the Langston Hughes Professor of English and African American Studies at Ohio University. His research and teaching interests include African American Studies, and Modernism (esp. the Harlem Renaissance). He is a series editor of MELA (Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the Americas) from Rutgers University Press. He is co-editor (with Bruce G. Johnson), Interviews with Edward W. Said. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004 (Public Intellectuals Series), Co-editor (with Daniel M. Scott III), The Collected Writings of Wallace Thurman: A Harlem  Renaissance Reader.  New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003.

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina is chair of the department of English and teaches courses on the novel, biography, Bloomsbury and black literature of Britain and America. She is the author or editor of seven books including Mr. and Mrs. Prince: How an Extraordinary 18th-Century Family Moved out of Slavery and into Legend, appeared in hardcover in 2008 with Amistad/HarperCollins; the paperback edition published in 2009.  It is the story of two former slaves, Abijah Prince and Lucy Terry Prince, in colonial Massachusetts and Vermont, who became landowners and public figures, successfully defending themselves in court.  Lucy Terry Prince is considered to be the first African American poet.

Gary Nash is Professor and Director,  National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA. Nash led the design of the 1986 California History/Social Science Framework, the 1994 National History Standards, and the subsequent 1996 revised edition. In addition to many books he has authored, co-authored, or co-edited, Nash has made chapter contributions to more than thirty books, has published forty-five articles and over eighty book reviews, op-ed essays, and comments, including First City: Philadelphia and the Forging of Historical Memory (2001)The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America (2005), The Forgotten Fifth: African Americans in the Age of Revolution (2006), and Friends of Liberty: A Tale of Three Patriots, Two Revolutions, and A Tragic Betrayal of Freedom in the new Nation (2008).

JERRIANNE BOGGIS is the founder and Director of the Harriet Wilson Project. She also acts as liaison for the University of New Hampshire's Diversity Initiatives program and as special projects director in the Center for New England Culture. As a community activist, Ms. Boggis has developed several community programs that dealt with history and race. These programs served to raise awareness of New Hampshire's diverse heritage and increase the visibility of Black history in the state. Ms. She is co-editor of the collection of essays on Wilson, Harriet Wilson's New England: Race, Writing & Region.

David Levinson  is Co-founder of Berkshire Publishing Group and  is a cultural anthropologist specializing in contemporary social issues. Formerly vice-president at Yale University's Human Relations Area Files, an anthropological think-tank, David became "well-known for his multivolume encyclopedic works that describe world cultures" (Choice 1998). His local history, Sewing Circles, Dime Suppers, and W.E.B. DuBois: A History of the Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church, was published in 2006, as was the much-praised guide to African American history and culture in the Berkshires.  His recent work is "One Minute a Free Woman: Elizabeth Freeman and the Struggle for Freedom," is co-authored with Emilie Piper.

Emilie Piper is a local historian and former librarian at the Berkshire Anthaneum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Ms. Piper is the author of One Minute A Free Woman: Elizabeth Freeman and the Struggle for Freedom. (Great Barrington, MA: Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, 2010) with David Levinson, "Americans of African Descent: An Annotated Bibliography of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and Some Connecticut and New York Historical References Through the Civil War Period" (Pittsfield, MA: Berkshire Athenaeum, 2004), "Settling Northern Berkshire County" (2003); "Early Settlers on Lenox Mountain" (2002); "The Family of Agrippa Hull" (2001); and A Beginner's Guide to Native American Genealogy" (2000). 

Dennis C. Dickerson specializes in American Labor History, the History of the U. S. civil rights movement, and African American religious history. He has written Out of the Crucible: Black Steel Workers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875-1980 (Albany, State University of New York Press, 1986) which chronicles the failed century long struggle of black steel laborers to attain occupational parity with their Caucasian counterparts. He also wrote Militant Mediator: Whitney M. Young, Jr. (Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1998) which analyzes the leadership of a major leader in the U. S. civil rights movement in the 1960s. This book was awarded the 1999 Distinguished Book from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Dickerson's new book, African American Preachers and Politics: The Careys of Chicago (Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2010) examines the intersection between religion and politics in the careers of two clergy/politicians during most of the 20th century.

Deborah Willis, Ph.D, is the Chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has an affiliated appointment as a University Professor with the College of Arts and Sciences, Africana Studies. Her work includes, The Black Female Body A Photographic History with Carla Williams (Temple University Press, Philadephia, 2002); A Small Nation of People: W.E.B. DuBois and the Photographs from the Paris Exposition (Amistad Press, 2003); Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers - 1840 to the Present (New York: W.W. Norton); Visual Journal: Photography in Harlem and DC in the Thirties and Forties (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 1996); Picturing Us: African American Identity in Photography (The New Press, New York, NY, 1994); and VANDERZEE: The Portraits of James VanDerZee (Harry Abrams Publishing, New York, NY, 1993).