Fran├žoise N. Hamlin

Portrait of Fran├žoise N. Hamlin
Image Credit: Peter Goldberg

Françoise N. Hamlin is the Royce Family Associate Professor of Teaching Excellence in Africana Studies and History at Brown University. 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. These Truly Are The Brave: An Anthology of African American Writings on Citizenship and War is a co-edited anthology (2015). It was a finalist for the QBR Wheatley Book Award in Nonfiction. She serves on the advisory board for the Journal of Civil and Human Rights, the Morehouse King Collection on Civil and Human Rights with the University of Georgia Press, and is the co-editor for the Boundless South series at the University of North Carolina Press. Currently is the chair of the Committee on the Status of African American, Latino/a, Asian American, and Native American (ALANA) Historians and ALANA Histories.

Her research interests include U.S. history; African American history; black women’s histories; autobiographies; research methods especially oral history; the ethics of care; youth, trauma, and activism. Most recently she received 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. Hamlin was named an Andrew Carnegie Foundation Fellow in 2021.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

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.