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We cannot understand where humanity has been and where we are going without Black Studies.

This work has never been more important. Our research is illuminating the impact of Black lives on the past, present and future of humanity—a thread that ties together every industry and culture on the planet.

With five innovative research themes and dozens of areas of sub-speciality research, the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies is the epicenter of this vital scholarship, building a legacy for future generations and leading the field of Black Studies forward, locally and globally.

Our Research Pillars






  • We believe Black Studies is for everybody. The Institute supports the entire University community and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and our reach is international, for the experiences of people of African descent inform the experiences of all of humanity.

  • We believe in community, including “glocal” communities. We use our research to develop antiracist solutions to the most urgent issues of our moment. Our scholars work with the surrounding community, addressing matters relevant to local people.

  • We believe knowledge production and information are powerful change agents. The research scholars hosted long- and short-term by the Institute are nationally and internationally recognized for their intellectual and creative excellence.

  • We believe that knowledge should be interdisciplinary. Neither the STEM fields, nor Humanities, nor Social Sciences, nor the Arts, exist alone or are sufficient alone.

  • We believe in the power of democracy. To study global Blackness is to study democratic institutions and the means by which full democracy has been imagined and enacted.

Supported By You

This vital work is not possible without support from private donors, businesses, and the community.

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Anastasia C. Curwood, PhD

Anastasia C. Curwood
Anastasia Curwood, Director of the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies, joined the UK Department of History and African American and Africana Studies in 2014. Her work has been recognized with fellowships from the Ford Foundation, The Institute for Citizens & Scholars, and the James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference at Emory University. She is the author of Stormy Weather: Middle-class African American Marriages between the Two World Wars (2010). She is presently completing Aim High: Shirley Chisholm and Black Feminist Power Politics.



Travis Andrews
Assistant Professor, College of Education and AAAS


Devyn Benson
Associate Professor of History and AAAS
Latin American and Caribbean History, esp. Cuba (19th/20th century); Africana Studies; Afro-Latin America; Cuban Studies; Afro-Latinx Studies; Transnational Black Feminisms


Nikki Brown
Associate Professor of History and AAAS
African American history; African American women; Film and visual studies; Photography


Renee Campbell
College of Social Work and affiliate in AAAS
African Diaspora; anti-racism; intimate partner violence; community building

DaMaris B. Hill, PhD

DaMaris B. Hill, PhD
Associate Professor of Creative Writing, English, and AAAS. Faculty Affiliate for Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies, AAAS, and Gender and Women’s Studies

DaMaris B. Hill is the author of A Bound Woman Is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland (2020 NAACP Image Award nominee for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry), The Fluid Boundaries of Suffrage and Jim Crow: Staking Claims in the American Heartland, \Vi-zə-bəl\ \Teks-chərs\(Visible Textures). She has a keen interest in the work of Toni Morrison and theories regarding ‘rememory’ as a philosophy and aesthetic practice. Similar to her creative process, Hill’s scholarly research is interdisciplinary. Hill is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Kentucky.


J.M.H. Clark
Assistant Professor of History and affiliate faculty, AAAS, and Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies.
African Diaspora; Black Atlantic; Latin America; Caribbean; Mexico; Afro-Latin America; Slavery; Race.


Lisa Cliggett
Chair and Professor of Anthropology. Faculty affiliate, AAAS.
The environment - including environmental justice, sustainability, poverty and inequality; Sub-Saharan Africa; The intellectual foundations of “categories” in the social sciences; Unequal access to resources (economic, social and environmental); Livelihood security, migration and household dynamics with a regional focus on Zambia, Southern Africa.


Blanche Bong Cook
Robert E. Harding Associate Professor of Law, College of Law. Affiliate faculty, AAAS and Gender & Women’s Studies.
Criminal law and procedure; Evidence; Appellate practice; Federal courts; Trial advocacy; Employment discrimination; Critical race theory; Critical race feminist theory; Sex trafficking.


Thais Council
Assistant Professor of Literacy, College of Education and faculty affiliate in AAAS
Black Education; Black Reparatory Literacies; Community-Engaged/Participatory Action Research


Steve Davis
Associate Professor of History and affiliate faculty, AAAS and Social Theory.
South African history/microhistory/public history; Digital Humanities; Graphic history; New military history.


Brandon Erby
Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Media and AAAS
African American Rhetoric; Literacy Studies; Rhetorical Education; Civil Rights and Black Power Movements; Prison Writing.


Kamahra Ewing
Assistant Professor of English and AAAS
Black Atlantic identities; Africana Cultural Productions; Postcolonial; Global South; Media/Film Studies; Ethnography; Gender; Religion.


Crystal Felima
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and AAAS
Caribbean (specifically Haiti); Environmental Crises; Black Ecological Futures; Disaster Narrative Research; Anthropology of the State


Kishonna Gray
Associate Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Media and AAAS
Identity; performance and online environments, embodied deviance; cultural production, video games, Black cyberfeminism.


Greg Hall
Associate Professor, Patterson School and AAAS
International Relations; International Security; Foreign Policy; Global South Affairs; International Political Ecology; Eurasian Affairs.


Aria Halliday
Assistant Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and AAAS
Black Feminist Thought; Hip-Hop Feminism; Black Girlhood; Literature and Visual Culture; Film and Media Studies


Regina Hamilton
Assistant Professor of English and AAAS
African American literature; African/African America/Caribbean literature and culture; 20th century women’s narrative; Gender and race; Black queer studies.


Candice Hargons
Assistant Professor of Counseling Psychology and faculty affiliate of AAAS
Sexual wellness; healing racial trauma


Julian V. Heilig
Dean, College of Education. Affiliate faculty of AAAS Educational policy, access and equity; Minority issues in education; Sociology of education; Racial equality.


Frances Henderson
Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and AAAS.
Intersectionality; Black political thought; Black feminist theory and social movements in the diaspora.


Vanessa Holden
Assistant Professor of History and AAAS
Gender; Slavery; Race; Resistance; Black Women; Sexuality


Hilary Jones
Associate Professor of History and AAAS
African History; West Africa; French Empire; Slavery and the Slave Trade; Francophone African Diaspora


Reinette Jones
Special Collection Librarian and African American Studies Academic Liaison and affiliate, AAAS.
African American Library History in KY; Researching the History of African Americans in KY; Notable Kentucky African Americans database.


Peter Kalliney
William J. Tuggle Chair in English, Associate Professor of English, and affiliate faculty of Social Theory and AAAS.
African literature; African American literature; Black British literature; Caribbean literature; Colonial and Postcolonial studies; Transnational literature.


Bertin Louis
Associate Professor of Anthropology and AAAS. Director of Undergraduate Studies, AAAS.
Cultural Anthropology; Africana Studies; Caribbean; U.S. South; Religion, race and racism; Haitians; Bahamas.


LeAnna Luney
Post Doctoral Fellow in Educational Policy Studies and Evaluation and affiliate of AAAS
African American Higher Education; Black Feminisms; Coping; Black Mental Health; Postcolonial/Decolonial Studies


Nicole Martin
Director of Academic Affairs. Faculty affiliate, AAAS.
Performance; Theatre history; Critical race studies; Black feminisms; Critical pedagogy; Critical ethnography.


Cheryl Matias
Professor, College of Education and AAAS
Race and Ethnic Studies in Education; Critical Race Theory; Critical Whiteness Studies; Critical Pedagogy; Feminism of Color.


Priscilla McCutcheon
Assistant Professor of Geography and faculty affiliate of AAAS and Appalachian Center.
Alternative food movements; Sustainable agriculture; Black geographies; Race and racism; Spirituality and religion.


Shauna Morgan
Associate Professor of Creative Writing and African Literature, Director of Equity and Inclusion Initiatives, Center for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching (CELT). Affiliate faculty, AAAS
African diaspora; Representations of womanhood; Neo-anticolonialism in 21st century literature; Global intersections of Black cultural productions.


Jackie Murray
Assistant Professor of Modern & Classical Languages Literatures & Cultures and faculty affiliate of AAAS and Gender & Women’s Studies.
Hellenistic Poetry; Greek and Latin literature; Caribbean culture and literature; Race studies and racial formation; Imperial Greek literature.


Francis Musoni
Associate Professor of History and faculty affiliate of AAAS and International Studies.
Modern African history; Migration; Refugees; Border studies; Informal economies; African liberation movements.


Lydia Pelot-Hobbs
Assistant Professor in Geography and AAAS.
The carceral state; Racial capitalism; Social movements and grassroots organizing; Prison abolition; Black geographies; Feminist and queer politics; Louisiana; US South; Critical urban studies.


Melynda J. Price
Robert E. Harding, Jr. Associate Professor of Law, and faculty affiliate of AAAS and Gender & Women’s Studies.
Race; Gender; Citizenship; Politics of punishment; The role of law in the politics of race and ethnicity in the US and at its borders.


Karen Rignall
Assistant Professor, Community and Leadership Development, Sociology, and AAAS.
Agri-Food Systems in the Middle East and North Africa; Rural livelihoods and economic development; Anthropology of rural life; Land tenure and land rights movements; Labor migration.


Elena Sesma
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and AAAS.
Historical Archaeology; Cultural heritage and collective memory; Archaeological Ethnography; Public and community archaeology African Diaspora; Slavery and emancipation.


Gerald L. Smith
Professor of History and faculty affiliate, AAAS.
African American history; Race and sports; Black freedom struggle; African American education; Kentucky African American history.


Melissa N. Stein
Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and faculty affiliate of AAAS, Health, Society, and Populations, History, and Diversity and Inclusion.
Critical race studies; Gender studies; Feminist science studies; The body, Racial thought; Sexuality and Queer history; US cultural and intellectual history; African American history; Women’s and gender history; History of science and medicine.


Amy Murrell Taylor
Professor of History, Theodore A. Hallam Professorship (2019-2021), Affiliate faculty of Gender and Women’s Studies and AAAS.
19th Century U.S. history; U.S. South; Emancipation; Civil War and Reconstruction; Race and gender; History of women; Slavery in public memory; Public history.


Kenneth Tyler
Professor, College of Education and AAAS.
Culture and cognitive development; race and racism; identity development; school-based and community-based learning and socialization processes, motivation, school attachment, and African American student achievement.


Vieux Toure
Assistant Professor of MCLLC and AAAS.
African and Afro-diasporic literatures and cultures; African Cinema; Contemporary African and Post-colonial/Decolonial Theories.


MB Visona
Associate Professor, School of Art and Visual Studies, College of Fine Arts and affiliated faculty, AAAS.
Art History; Visual studies; Anthropology of art; African art; Cultural Studies; Global modernism; Transnational artists; Curatorial studies.


Daniel Vivian
Associate Professor, College of Design and secondary appointment in History, and faculty affiliate in AAAS
19th and 20th century US history, public history, historical memory, and historic preservation


Frank X Walker
Professor of English and affiliate faculty, AAAS and Appalachian Center.
Poetry and poetics; Fiction; African American cinema; Affrilachia; Diversity in comics and graphic novels; Playwriting and Black theatre.


Patrick Walker (In Memoriam)
Endowed Lecturer, Honors College and AAAS.
Entrepreneurship; Free Enterprise; Conscious capitalism from legal, managerial, and interdisciplinary perspectives.


Keith Watts
Assistant Professor, College of Social Work and faculty affiliate of AAAS
Mental health and well-being; Black LGBTQ+; community belongingness; and intersectionality


Jazmine Wells
Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric and Digital Media and AAAS.
Cultural literacies; Women’s rhetorics; Maternal incarceration; Race.


Brandi White
Assistant Professor, College of Health Sciences.
Health equity; Community engagement; Diversity of the healthcare workforce.


Derrick White
Associate Professor of History and AAAS.
Black history; Sports history; Intellectual history.


Stephanie White
Associate Professor, College of Medicine and faculty affiliate in AAAS
Race and medicine; health disparities; addressing inequities in academic medicine


Lauren Whitehurst
Assistant Professor of Psychology and faculty affiliate in AAAS
Sleep; cognition and health; disparities in cognitive health


Crystal Wilkinson
Associate Professor of English and affiliate faculty of AAAS and Appalachian Center.
Creative writing; Fiction; The short story cycle; Black culture in Appalachia; Mental illness in literature; Women and the Black rural landscape.


Brandon Wilson
Post-Doctoral Fellow in History and affiliate faculty of AAAS
Slavery; Capitalism; Prisons; the Domestic Slave Trade


George C. Wright
Professor of History and faculty affiliate of AAAS
Kentucky history; Black history; Global Black freedom struggle


Nazera Sadiq Wright
Associate Professor of English and affiliated faculty, AAAS.
Colonial through 19th century American literature and culture; Women’s literature and gender studies; African/African American/Caribbean literature and culture.

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