Premilla Nadasen

Premilla Nadasen is Professor of History at Barnard College, Columbia University, Director of the Barnard Center for Research on Women, and past president of the National Women’s Studies Association. She researches and writes about social policy and labor history and is most interested in the activism and visions of liberation of poor and working-class women of color. She has been involved in social justice organizing for decades, collaborated with many local organizations, and made her research accessible and available to people beyond the academy. She has published extensively on the multiple meanings of feminism, alternative labor movements, and grass-roots community organizing, written for the Washington PostThe RootAl JazeeraMs. Magazine, and appeared on CBS, CNN, the Melissa Harris-Perry Show and multiple other news outlets. Nadasen is the author of several books, including Welfare Warriors: The Welfare Rights Movement in the United States (2005), which chronicles the emergence of a distinctive brand of feminism forged by black women on welfare, and Household Workers Unite: The Untold Story of African American Women Who Built a Movement (2015), which examines the role of history, memory, and storytelling in building a movement for domestic workers rights. Her forthcoming book, Care: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (2023) chronicles the rise of the care economy and uplifts examples of radical care practices. She is currently writing a biography of South African singer and anti-apartheid activist Miriam Makeba, tentatively titled: Mama Africa: Miriam Makeba, the Anti-Apartheid Movement, and Transnational Black Solidarity. She has won multiple awards and honors for her work, including the Ann Snitow Prize, John Hope Franklin Prize, Sara Whaley Book Prize, and a Fulbright Fellowship to Oxford University.

OAH Lectures by Premilla Nadasen

What can we learn from history about how social change happens? Nadasen chronicles key moments of legislative, political, and social change in the postwar period and argues that the impetus for change came from community activists. organizers, and grassroots mobilization. Using the civil rights movement, welfare rights movement and women's movement as examples, she suggests that grassroots activists shift the political climate and generate pressure that creates greater possibilities for progressive change.

The Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative, domestic worker organizing, the women's march, #blacklivesmatter, #metoo, #sayhername, #wewillnotbeerased, sanctuary cities, prison abolition: a new multi-issue intersectional movement with women, woman-identified or gender nonconforming people at the center. Nadasen looks at these and lesser-known examples of resistance rooted in a black feminist history that offer a vision for social transformation.


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