Deborah Gray White

Deborah Gray White

Fellow: Awarded 2009
Field of Study: United States History

Competition: US & Canada

Rutgers University

Deborah Gray White is the Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University. She received her M.A. degree from Columbia University (1973), and, while still a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (Ph.D., 1979), she was hired as an instructor in history at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She was subsequently promoted to assistant professor (1978-84) and associate professor (1984-94), before she accepted her current appointment in the history department at Rutgers.

During her twenty-five years at Rutgers, she has not only been a teacher but the codirector of “The Black Atlantic: Race, Nation and Gender” project at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis (1997-99), a research professor at the Rutgers Institute for Research on Women (1999-2000), and chair of the history department (2000-03).

A specialist in American history, with a particular research interest in African American and American women, and the interplay of race, gender, sexuality, and class, Ms. White has contributed a number of articles to such important periodicals as the Journal of American History, Journal of Caribbean Studies, Journal of Family History, and Journal of African American History. She edited and provided the introduction for Telling Histories: Black Women Historian in the Ivory Tower (University of North Carolina Press, 2008), and edited, with Darlene Clark Hine and others, Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia (Oxford UP, 2004). She wrote (with Juan Garcia et al.) Our United States (Silver Burdett Ginn, 1996); (with William Deverell) United States History: Independence to 1914 (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 2006); and (with Edward L. Ayers et al.) American Anthem (Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 2007).

Ms. White most well known publication is her first monograph: “Ar’n’t I A Woman?” Female Slaves in the Plantation South (Norton, 1985). According to a 1994 survey conducted among her fellow members of the Organization of American Historians, “Ar’n’t I A Woman?” was one of the one hundred most admired American history books. A second edition, with a new introduction and additional chapter, was issued in 1999, and in 2005, twenty years after its initial publication it was still revered. In anticipation of its anniversary, the Southern Historical Association celebrated it at its 2003 conference; and in 2005 a conference entitled “Slave Women’s Lives: Twenty Years of ‘Ar’n’t I A Woman?’ and More” was held at the Huntington Institute in Claifornia, with the proceedings published in the 2007 Winter issue of the Journal of African American Studies; the papers presented in honor of it at the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women were published in the Journal of Women’s History in July 2007.

Her other monographs are Let My People Go: African-Americans, 1804-1860 (Oxford UP, 1996) and Too Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994 (Norton, 1999). During her Guggenheim Fellowship term, she will be completing work on “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”: American Identity at the Turn of the Millennium,” an interdisciplinary study of the many marches and mass demonstrations on the 1990s and early twenty-first century, such as the Million Man March and Promise Keepers gathering, in an effort to understand their causes and significance. Her other Fellowships include ones from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the ACLS, the American Association of University Women, and the National Research Council / Ford Foundation.


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