When I was a young girl I would read for hours at a time, completely captivated and lost between the covers of a book. I sat in small classrooms at my Philadelphia Quaker school and found myself more and more attracted to what I called “true stories” or what I would later recognize as the field of history.
I attended the University of Pennsylvania where I received my BA in the departments of History and what was then called the Department of Afro-American Studies. By the age of twenty-one, I began my formal journey to the historical profession, eventually receiving my MA and PhD from Columbia University. I followed my interests and my heart- I became a historian of the African American experience and I committed myself to telling the stories of black women who lived, loved, struggled, worked, prayed, and fought to survive in a nation that still recognized many of them as property.
My writing, teaching, and lecturing focus on the uncomfortable concepts of slavery, racial injustice, and gender inequality. While there is deep pain associated with these topics, I marvel at the incredible triumph of survival and the beautiful history of resistance.
I am honored to be counted among only a handful of distinguished scholars who study the lives of women of African descent who called America their home during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I am a social historian, a scholar of urban history, women’s history, and Philadelphia history. In addition to my books, I have written articles, essays, encylcopedia entries, and book reviews and I have given numerous scholarly talks across the country. I enjoy teaching undergraduates and doctoral students who work with me on projects connected to African American history and the larger African diaspora.
In 2011, I became the Inaugural Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. The program brings together scholars and interested members of the public to explore and discuss the experiences of people of African descent in the Americas from the beginnings of European colonization through 1900. At the Library Company I worked with some of the very best graduate students as well as junior and senior scholars, who have contributed to groundbreaking work in the field. The Program in African American History is committed to the strong need to diversify the professoriate and at the Library Company of Philadelphia, I worked with a growing network of scholars who support and promoted this mission. After completing a three-million-dollar endowment campaign, the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia has become a self-sustaining program that will continue to thrive.