Keisha N. Blain

Portrait of Keisha N. Blain

Dr. Keisha N. Blain, a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow and a Class of 2022 Carnegie Fellow, is an award-winning historian and writer with broad interests in 20th century United States, African American History, the modern African Diaspora, and Women’s and Gender Studies. She is a Full Professor of Africana Studies and History at Brown University. She is also a columnist for MSNBC and past president of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) from 2017 to 2021. Blain has published extensively on race, gender, and politics in both national and global perspectives. She is the author of the highly acclaimed books Set the World on Fire: Black Nationalist Women and the Global Struggle for Freedom (2018) and Until I Am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America (2021). She is also the co-editor of four books: To Turn the Whole World Over: Black Women and Internationalism (2019); New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition (2018); and Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence (2016). Her most recent volume is the #1 New York Times Best Seller Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, edited with Ibram X. Kendi (2021).

NEW in 2021: Until I am Free: Fannie Lou Hamer's Enduring Message to America (Beacon Press)

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

The struggle for Black political rights has reshaped the United States in fundamental ways. For centuries, Black people in America have resisted the social constraints and legal frameworks that have attempted to bar their political engagement. These activists, from diverse backgrounds and in various locales, have called upon everyone in the United States to play an active role in building an inclusive democracy—one that lives up to the ideals on which the nation was founded. In this talk, Dr. Blain provides a historical overview of some of the icons of the long struggle for Black political rights. The talk highlights the many strategies Black people employed to ensure that they would have full rights as citizens of the United States.
Anti-racism is the active process of identifying and eliminating racism in society. At a fundamental level, anti-racist work represents an ongoing commitment to dismantling systems of oppression and challenging structures, policies, practices and attitudes that perpetuate legacies of racism. In this talk, Dr. Blain discusses the importance of anti-racist principles to the larger goals of dismantling structures of inequality in the United States and redressing past harms and injustices. The talk draws upon lessons from history to highlight various strategies and solutions to current challenges in American society.
While mainstream historical narratives tend to focus on the political work of men such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lewis, Black women played instrumental roles in shaping the Civil Rights Movement. These women were community organizers and leaders, sustaining the movement as it grew from local communities into a national struggle. Black women, such as Ella Baker, Diana Nash, Jo Ann Robinson and Fannie Lou Hamer, were central to the movement’s success. In this talk, Dr. Blain highlights the significance of these women’s activism during the 1950s and 1960s and brings to light some of the resistance they encountered as women organizing in male-dominated spaces. The talk also emphasizes solutions for how we can confront some of the persistent challenges of sexism and misogyny today.