N. D. B. Connolly is the Herbert Baxter Adams Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University and a co-host of the American history podcast BackStory. His research considers racism and the American presidency, capitalism, racial segregation, West Indian immigration to the United States, and the relationship between community building and real estate development. Raised in South Florida, he is the author of A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida (2014), winner of the OAH Liberty Legacy Foundation Award, the Urban History Association's Kenneth T. Jackson Award, and the Southern Historical Association's Bennett H. Wall Award. In addition to teaching, writing, and speaking widely, Connolly serves on the executive board of the Urban History Association. In 2009 he won the Arthur Fondiler Award for Best Dissertation, and in 2010 he received the Institute for the Humanities' "Emerging Scholars Prize" at the University of Michigan.
How have black appointees proved instrumental to the preservation of the U.S. presidency and to the durability of America’s political center more generally? This lecture explores the relationship between black people, political legitimacy, and American presidents. N. D. B. Connolly considers whether U.S. presidents and their appointees have operated within a relatively consistent political script, one that has endured a great many historical changes and political circumstances. He suggests that, quite apart from whether the actual president is black, blackness, through presidential appointments, has mattered a great deal to the American presidency and to the perceived authority of those who hold the office.