Blackhawk named Randolph W. Townsend, Jr. Professor of History and American Studies

Ned Blackhawk
Ned Blackhawk

Ned Blackhawk, an expert on the history of indigenous people in North America, has been appointed the Randolph W. Townsend, Jr. Professor of History and American Studies, effective July 1. 

He is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the Department of History and the American Studies program and an enrolled member of the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada. 

Blackhawk joined the Yale faculty in 2009 after holding faculty positions at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His work bridges the fields of U.S. western history, early American history, and Native American studies. In 2010, he received the Book of the Decade award from the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association for “Violence Over the Land: Indians and Empires in the Early American West,” which recognized this work as one of the 10 most influential books in Native American and Indigenous Studies in the first decade of the 21st century. “Violence Over the Land” recounts the central role of Great Basin Indians in the history of the American West, illuminating the impacts of colonial expansion and the struggle of Native communities. In addition to the Book of the Decade Award, “Violence Over the Land” was awarded prizes by the American Studies Association, the Western History Association, the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, the American Society for Ethnohistory, and the Organization of American Historians. 

Building on this achievement, Blackhawk has recently completed the interpretive synthesis, “The Rediscovery of America: American Indians and the Unmaking of U.S. History,” scheduled for publication by Yale University Press in 2022. He has also co-edited two anthologies and written a series of state of the field essays, including the first commissioned essay by the American Historical Association on American Indian historiography. He has also published numerous articles, review essays, and anthology chapters, while writing for art exhibitions at the National Museum of the American Indian, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery. He is the founding series editor of the Yale University Press Henry Roe Cloud Series on American Indians and Modernity.

In addition to his influential scholarship, Blackhawk has organized and/or taught symposia for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute; and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He has also served as an advisory board member for New York Historical Society and a member of the Native American Advisory Board for the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

At Yale, his courses have introduced countless students to American Indian history. He has worked closely with the new Native American Cultural Center, which opened during his tenure in 2013. He plays an active role in fostering community as the faculty coordinator for a series of programs, including the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP), the Yale Group for the Study of Native America (YGSNA), the Native American Language Project, and the recently established NYU-Yale American Indian Sovereignty Project, a multi-year collaboration between New York University School of Law and Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences designed to foster research in support of the sovereignty of Native nations.

He has served Yale in other crucial capacities, including as a member of the Steering Committee for the Program in Ethnicity, Race, and Migration and as a member for terms on the Humanities Division Tenure and Appointments Committee.

In addition to serving on the program committees of various professional associations and on the editorial boards of American Quarterly and Ethnohistory, he has led the establishment of two fellowships, one for American Indian students to attend the Western History Association’s annual conference and another, named after Henry Roe Cloud, for doctoral students working on American Indian Studies dissertations at Yale.

A graduate of McGill University, he earned his master’s degree from UCLA, and his Ph.D. at the University of Washington.

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