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History Department to hire African American history tenure-track professor

The History Department is looking to hire an African American History tenure-track faculty member to begin Fall 2022. Professor Harry Williams, who came to Carleton in 1989 and taught courses including African American History and Black Atlantic History, retired this year, and the History Department hopes to find another professor to continue offering courses focused on African American History. 

Professor Serena Zabin, the History Department Chair, said the department plans to find a person who only specialized in African American history but also “who can advance the college’s vision about how to be an anti-racist institution.” Zabin emphasized the “enormous significance of learning and teaching pre-civil war African American history and the history of slavery as a form of terrorism” to understanding our racial and political environment today. 

The position is listed as open-rank tenure track, meaning that those who already have tenure somewhere else can apply. Zabin said that the department chose to make the position open-rank to “have the biggest, most diverse, and most exciting pool we could.” 

The department planned on advertising the position and beginning interviews last year but decided to postpone the process because of COVID-19. Zabin is optimistic that the department can resume a normal search and have applicants interview in person with faculty and students this coming fall. 

In addition to bringing in more faculty specialized in African American history, the department has recently focused on hosting scholars and historians from around the country and the world through the Lefler/Broom Lectures and Discussions on Race and History. This year visitors have included Dr. Vincent Brown, Dr. Spencer Crew, and, most recently, Professor Sophie White, who on May 4 spoke about her newest book, Voices of the Enslaved: Love, Labor, and Longing in French Louisiana, which incorporates criminal justice testimonies to analyze the autobiographies of enslaved people in French Louisiana. 

This upcoming Fall and Winter, the history department is also excited to host a senior visiting professor, Noel Volts of Case Western University, who will teach Atlantic Slavery and Black Women’s History. While the college has always offered courses examining African American history to some degree, the increased racial tensions of the past year and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement pushed the department to introduce more focused and intensive investigations of Black America. 

The History department hopes that the open-rank application will bring in a professor who can both expand the college’s scholarship in African American history and contribute to the Africana Studies program. Zabin emphasized that the department is looking to hire the best candidate for Carleton who is “eager to teach and share what matters to them about explaining the African American past.” 

The death of George Floyd and countless other injustices brought to the limelight this year were aggressive demonstrations of the institutional racism that has deep roots in our American past. The History Department hopes that bringing in more diverse voices and professors of African American history will play a part in creating a more just future through the study and deconstruction of the past.

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