Program Directors

Ansley Erickson is an Associate Professor of History and Education and Co-Director for the Center on History and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Erickson won the Outstanding Book Award from the History of Education Society for her book Making the Unequal Metropolis: School Desegregation and Its Limits. With Professor Ernest Morrell of Notre Dame, Dr. Erickson leads the Harlem Education History Project, a collaborative investigation into the history of education in 20th century Harlem. The project includes an edited volume titled Educating Harlem: A Century of Schooling and Resistance in a Black Community, a digital history project, and youth participatory history program. Earlier in her career, Erickson taught history and conducted ethnographic research in New York City schools. Her research studies the history of schools in U.S. cities in the 20th century with particular focus to the roots and consequences of inequality and racism in education and the ways that communities have resisted these with their own educational visions.

Brian Jones is Director of the Center for Educators & Schools at the New York Public Library. He is the former Associate Director of Education at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where he was also a scholar in residence. Dr. Jones taught in New York City public schools for nine years before pursuing a PhD at the City University of New York Graduate Center. His first book, The Tuskegee Student Uprising: A History, is a study of the explosive 1960s student movement at Tuskegee University in Alabama. Dr. Jones is also currently the Project Director for Schomburg Curriculum Project, which is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. 

Visiting Scholars

Stefan Bradley is the Charles Hamilton Houston ’15 Professor of Black Studies and History at Amherst College. Professor Bradley is the author of the award-winning books, Upending the Ivory Tower: Civil Rights, Black Power, and the Ivy League and Harlem vs. Columbia University: Black Student Power in the Late 1960s. He is co-editor of Alpha Phi Alpha: A Legacy of Greatness, the Demands of Transcendence. Professor Bradley’s work primarily details the progressive efforts of Black people at eight elite universities during the postwar era to not only desegregate campuses but decolonize knowledge.

Ashley Farmer is an Associate Professor of History and African & African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas-Austin. Dr. Farmer is an historian of Black women’s history, intellectual history, and radical politics. Her book, Remaking Black Power: How Black Women Transformed an Era, is the first comprehensive study of Black women’s intellectual production and advocacy in the Black Power Era. Dr. Farmer is also the Co-Editor and Curator of the Black Power Series with Ibram X. Kendi, published with NYU Press. 

Frank Guridy is Professor of History and African American Studies and the Executive Director of the Eric H. Holder Initiative for Civil and Political Rights at Columbia University. His latest book, The Sports Revolution: How Texas Changed the Culture of American Athletics (University of Texas Press, 2021) explored how Texas-based sports entrepreneurs and athletes from marginalized backgrounds transformed American sporting culture during the 1960s and 1970s, the highpoint of the Black Freedom and Second-Wave feminist movements. Dr. Guridy teachers a class at Columbia University titled Columbia 1968 which is designed to encourage a re-examination of Columbia’s history around the Black Freedom Struggle and the anti-War movement of the 1960s. His research interests include urban history, sport, and the history of the African Diaspora. 

Marta Gutman is an architectural historian, a licensed architect, and dean of the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York and professor of art history and earth and environmental sciences at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Her most recent work A City for Children: Women, Architecture, and the Charitable Landscapes of Oakland, 1850-1950 received the Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book (North American) in urban history and the Spiro Kostof Book Award. Dr. Gutman seeks to discover how in different historical circumstances Americans have harnessed opportunities in the built environment to make better lives for themselves and their fellow citizens. 

Charles Payne is the Henry Rutgers Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Rutgers University Newark and the Director of the Joseph Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Research. He is the author of several books on education and civil rights, including So Much Reform, So Little Change, and two co-edited anthologies, Teach Freedom: The African American Tradition of Education for Liberation and Dignity-Affirming Education: Cultivating the Somebodiness of Students and Educators. Dr. Payne has also helped found the Duke Curriculum Project, John Hope Franklin Scholars program, and the Education for Liberation Network. His research and teaching interests include urban education and school reform, social inequality, social change and modern African American history, particularly the Black Freedom Struggle. 

Brian Purnell is Associate Professor of Africana Studies and History and Director of Africana Studies Program at Bowdoin College. Dr. Purnell has published two books, including Fighting Jim Crow in the County of Kings: The Congress of Racial Equality in Brooklyn which won the 2012 winner of the New York State Historical Association Dixon Ryan Fox Manuscript Prize. His research, writing, and teaching areas generally fall within the broad field of African American history with specific concentrations in urban history, oral history, civil rights and black power movement history, and modern United States history.

Russell Rickford is an Associate Professor of History at Cornell University. He specializes in African-American political culture after World War II, the Black Radical Tradition, and transnational social movements. His most recent book, We Are an African People: Independent Education, Black Power, and the Radical Imagination, received the 2016 Hooks Institute National Book Award and the 2017 OAH Liberty Legacy Foundation Award. He is currently working on a book about Guyana and African American radical politics in the 1970s.

Vanessa Valdés is the Associate Provost for Community Engagement at The City College of New York. She is the former interim dean of Macaulay Honors College at CUNY (2021-2022) and the former director of the City College of New York Black Studies Program (2019-2021). A graduate of Yale and Vanderbilt Universities, and Professor of Spanish and Portugese, her research interests focus on the cultural production of Black peoples throughout the Americas: the United States and Latin America, including Brazil, and the Caribbean. Her most recent book She is the editor of The Future Is Now: A New Look at African Diaspora Studies (2012) and Let Spirit Speak! Cultural Journeys through the African Diaspora (2012). She is the author of Oshun’s Daughters: The Search for Womanhood in the Americas (2014) and Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg (2017). Her latest book, Racialized Visions: Haiti and the Hispanic Caribbean (2020) is an edited collection that re-centers Haiti in the disciplines of Caribbean, and more broadly, Latin American Studies.

Movement Veterans (invited)

Sam Anderson was a cofounder of the original Harlem Black Panther Party and founding member of the New York City Coalition for Excellence in Black Education. Professor Anderson was also a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and is a retired mathematics and Black History professor. 

Ruby Nell Sales is a nationally recognized human-rights activist, public theologian, and social critic, whose articles and work appear in many journals, online sites, and books. Under the tutelage of Professor Jean Wiley, Sales joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s as a teenager at Tuskegee University and went to work as a student freedom fighter in Lowndes County, Alabama. As a social activist, Sales has served on many committees to further the work of racial, sexual, gender, and class reconciliation, education, and awareness. She has served on the Steering Committee for International Women’s Day, Washington, D.C.; the James Porter Colloquium Committee, Howard University, Washington, D.C.; the Coordinating Committee, People’s Coalition, Washington, D.C.; the President’s Committee On Race, University of Maryland; and the Coalition on Violence Against Women, Amnesty International, Washington, D.C. She was a founding member of Sage Magazine: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. Sales received a Certificate of Gratitude for her work on Eyes on the Prize. Always a sturdy and consistent advocate for racial justice, for people of color, lesbians and gays, women, and seniors, Sales has made the struggle for racial justice one of the centerpieces of her work. Her recent body of work on racism and racial justice includes encounters with the York County (PA) NAACP, Mennonites, Every Church A Peace Church, Servant Leadership School, Washington Cathedral, New Hampshire Supreme Court Association, and Goshen College.  

Paula Marie Seniors is an associate professor at Virginia Tech and the biographer of her family’s legacy Mae Mallory, The Monroe Defense Committee and World Revolutions: African American Women Radical Activists (forthcoming University of Georgia Press). She is the co-author of Michelle Obama’s Impact on African American Women and Girls (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018) in which her chapter “Reconfiguring Black Motherhood: Michelle Obama and the Mom in Charge Trope” appears. She won the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians for Beyond Lift Every Voice and Sing: The Culture of Uplift, Identity and Politics in Black Musical Theater. Seniors is currently working on two manuscripts African American Women Wept: Police, State, and White Supremacist Violence agains African American Girls and Women Before and During the Grand Global Apocalyptic Pandemic and Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha: Dr. T.J. Anderson, and the 1972 Atlanta, Georgia World Premiere of an American Opera.

Institute Staff

Karen D. Taylor is the founder and executive director of While We Are Still Here, a 501(c)(3) heritage preservation organization that provides humanities and arts programming. She also consults as the director of public history for the Harlem Education History Project. Karen has also served as interim director for the Roundtable of Institutions of Color, housed at the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, New York University, a research arm of the school that was devoted to assessing the state of African American and Latino communities. Karen has also served as managing editor for Scholastic Books and Amistad Press. As a fundraising-development professional she worked for the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Feminist Press at the City University of New York, and the Brecht Forum. She has also conceptualized and produced academic conferences, concerts, and workshops for institutions that include the Apollo; Teachers College; Barnard; the CUNY Graduate Center’s Office of Continuing Education and Public Programming; New York University; and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College. While at the Feminist Press, she conceptualized and developed a fully funded educational program that used the Press’s publications to develop curriculum for incarcerated women at Bedford Hills Correctional Facility. She holds an MFA in Writing (Creative Nonfiction)  from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BS in African-American Literature from the State University of New York, Empire State College. She has been a Harlem resident for more than thirty years.