I was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago, coming of age during the Civil Rights and Black Power era. I attended Catholic schools until I volunteered for the military, serving during the peaceful years of Jimmy Carter’s presidency when our wars were cold rather than hot. With the GI Bill in hand, I attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where I received my doctorate in history in 1994. I began my teaching career at Columbia University in New York City, and left there in 2000 to serve as Director of African American Studies at the University of Florida at Gainesville.
Since 2003, I have been Professor of History at Howard University, pulling duty as chair from 2005 to 2009. Among the associations to which I belong, the first and foremost is the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). I have served on its board since 2003, currently as the president. Founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1915, ASALH is the oldest black scholarly and intellectual society in the world. Much of my work has involved reinvigorating ASALH’s programs, including its annual meeting and publications, including the ASALH website and store. In 2005, I established The Woodson Review: ASALH’s Annual Theme Magazine. During the same year, I established The ASALH Press, the successor to Woodson’s Associated Publishers, which served as the publishing arm of the Association for over eighty years. In 2004, I led the effort to transform ASALH’s Black History Bulletin, established in 1937, into a journal for teachers written by teachers and teacher educators. In 2009, I headed the effort to take ASALH’s scholarly publications into the digital age. In 2012, I teamed with Marilyn-Thomas Houston, to found and serve as co-editor of a new peer-reviewed, scholarly publication Fire!!!: The Multimedia Journal of Black Studies, which is on JSTOR’s platform. It is my hope that Fire!!! will keep ASALH a vital part of the intellectual life of both African Americans and the nation well into the new century.
I make my home in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
I labor under the following belief: A people without institutions is not long to remain a people and will become whatever others will have them be.