Distinguished Lecturers
Françoise N. Hamlin

Françoise N. Hamlin

Françoise N. Hamlin is the Royce Family Associate Professor of Teaching Excellence in Africana Studies and History at Brown University. Her research interests include U.S. history; African American history; black women’s histories; autobiographies; research methods, especially oral history; the ethics of care; and youth, trauma, and activism. She is the author of Crossroads at Clarksdale: The Black Freedom Struggle in the Mississippi Delta after World War II (2012), winner of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize and the Lillian Smith Book Award. Hamlin's most recent book is From Rights To Lives: The Evolution of the Black Freedom Struggle (2024), co-edited with Charles W. McKinney Jr. Other works include These Truly Are The Brave: An Anthology of African American Writings on Citizenship and War (2015), a co-edited anthology, and a finalist for the QBR Wheatley Book Award in Nonfiction. Hamlin republished the previously self-published 1975 autobiography of Mississippi civil rights activist, Vera Pigee, The Struggle of Struggles in 2023, adding a full introduction, annotation, and a timeline. It was named one of the top five books about women in the civil rights movement in the Wall Street Journal.

Hamlin serves on the advisory board for the Journal of Civil and Human Rights, she is the co-editor for the Boundless South series at the University of North Carolina Press; and the senior editor for an upcoming journal on black military studies. She served as chair of the Committee on the Status of African American, Latino/a, Asian American, and Native American (ALANA) Historians and ALANA Histories in 2022-2023. Recent awards include the Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies; a fellowship at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University; and a George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship. She was most recently an Andrew Carnegie Foundation Fellow (2021-2023).

NEW IN 2024From Rights To Lives: The Evolution of the Black Freedom Struggle (Vanderbilt University Press)

OAH Lectures by Françoise N. Hamlin

In the current black-initiated mass movement, Black Lives Matter, much of the backlash focuses on the inability to accept black trauma as valid and as a threat to the social order. History matters – and understanding historical structures (beginning with the Constitution itself) helps us understand the existence of these debates.

Historians can face challenges when reconstructing lives not preserved and curated in traditional archives, and obstacles require creativity and strategy to overcome. Nevertheless, finding the gems, oftentimes from scraps of information and clues, reveals some of the joys of our work. Using the example of a black woman who organized and provided leadership during the mass civil rights movement in Clarksdale, Mississippi from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies, this lecture considers how historians have responded to the archives.

Black leadership usually connotes images of male preachers (and now a president) at podiums. These images document only one type of leadership – the formal figureheads – and obscures how women and young people forged spaces where they could fortify and assert their authority to organize others. Using the case study of the civil rights struggle organized in Clarksdale, Mississippi, this lecture considers those hidden in plain sight at the local level and demands more expansive definitions for leadership to reflect local realities.


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