Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, Ph.D, is an associate professor of history at Smith College. Dr. Pryor is the author of an award winning article, “The Etymology of [N-Word]: Resistance, Language and the Politics of Freedom in the Antebellum North” and 2016’s monograph Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship before the Civil War. Her new project, which developed out of her research and teaching, is an historical and pedagogical study of the n-word framed, in part, by her experience as a biracial woman in the United States who is also the daughter of iconic comedian Richard Pryor. Dr. Pryor is an award-winning teacher with 10 years experience teaching the n-word; she is Smith College’s Faculty Teaching Mentor for Inclusive and Equitable Pedagogies; and she conducts faculty workshops on navigating the n-word and other racist language in the classroom. Her teaching specialties include 19th century United States history, race and racism, African American women, and the history of U.S. slavery.
The n-word, a word prevalent in both racist and anti-racist documents, art, literature and politics, and is wreaking havoc across U.S. classrooms. With personal, pedagogical and historical perspective--framed in part by her experience as a biracial woman who is also the daughter of iconic comedian Richard Pryor--Dr. Pryor reflects on some of the reasons the n-word is so hard to talk about.