I am a historian of modern America with a particular focus on racism, business, politics, and international relations. I am particularly interested in processes of transformation–such as those that took place during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s amid the struggle against Jim Crow, apartheid, and colonialism–and the contestations they engender. I am likewise concerned with how different institutions respond, shape, and are shaped by these transformations, including corporations.
My current book project, Black Power, Inc.: Corporate America, Race, and Empowerment Politics in the U.S. and Africa (University of Pennsylvania Press, under contract), brings together two narratives central to late twentieth century history, yet, which have hitherto remained largely separate in the literature: the history of the global Black Power movement and the transnational rise of free-market politics. It does so through revealing the financial, ideological, and political investments made by government officials, corporate executives, and black activist-entrepreneurs in black empowerment politics. Defined as private and public programs promoting job training, community development, and black entrepreneurship, black empowerment increasingly supplanted more radical demands for economic justice and reparations amid the late twentieth century transition from Jim Crow to a post-apartheid global economy. In the process, I show how advocates of black empowerment appropriated older intellectual traditions, including Christian uplift and a patriarchal African traditionalism, and gave them new life through associating them with skills—entrepreneurship, managerialism—touted as the keys to success in a globalizing economy. Aided by the U.S. government and U.S. corporations, black empowerment ventures have become a hallmark of the post-Jim Crow/post-apartheid policy landscape governing black communities from North Philadelphia to Soweto. By centering private capital alongside state power, Black Power, Inc. furthermore explains how American capitalism profited from black militancy, racial liberalism, and the seeds of political conservatism that blossomed within the global black freedom struggle.
My research has received the support from various organizations, including the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the Business History Conference, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, the Hagley Library, the German Historical Institute, the UVA Center for Global Inquiry + Innovation, the Johns Hopkins’ Program in Women, Gender and Sexuality, and numerous libraries. The dissertation on which my current book is based was awarded the the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations’ Betty Unterberger Dissertation Prize and the Business History Conference’s Herman E. Krooss Prize for Best Dissertation.
My published work has appeared in been featured in multiple academic journals, including Enterprise & Society, the Journal of Urban History, and the Business History Review, as well as public venues such as the Washington Post, Black Perspectives, and Public Seminar.
I received my Ph.D. in History from The Johns Hopkins University in 2018. Prior to coming to Purchase, I held postdoctoral research positions at the University of Virginia in the Democracy Initiative’s Corruption Lab on Ethics, Accountability, and the Rule of Law and Princeton University in the Department of African American Studies.
In 2020, I took over as host of the popular Who Makes Cents: A History of Capitalism Podcast. New episodes featuring historians, as well as social and cultural critics, talking about capitalism’s past, highlighting the political and economic changes that have created the present, are released monthly.