Goldsby named Donnelley Professor of African American Studies and English

Jacqueline Goldsby.
Jacqueline Goldsby

Jacqueline Goldsby, who has opened new avenues for African American studies and the study of literature both at Yale and beyond, has been appointed the Thomas E. Donnelley Professor of African American Studies and English, effective immediately.

Goldsby is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) in the Department of African American Studies, the Department of English, and the program in American Studies.

Goldsby’s first book, “A Spectacular Secret: Lynching in American Life and Literature” (University of Chicago Press, 2006), weaves together historical narrative and literary analysis to show how racist mob violence was a fundamental part of the national consciousness, unearthing and answering new questions about the history of race in the United States. “A Spectacular Secret” won the Modern Language Association’s William S. Scarborough Prize for the best book in African American literary studies in 2007, and was named Honorable Mention for the American Studies Association’s Lora Romero First Book Prize that same year. Her expertise in U.S. book history and textual criticism led her to edit what’s now become the definitive edition of the 1912 novel, “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man” (by James Weldon Johnson) for W.W. Norton’s prestigious Critical Editions series in 2015.

In her current project, “Writing from the Lower Frequencies: African American Literature at Mid-Century,” she pursues a new direction, focusing on the regenerative aesthetic life that Jim Crow segregation gave rise to during the mid-20th century, revealing how segregation shaped the work of the understudied Black authors who were active during the period following World War II but before the Civil Rights movement. She’s also writing a meditative-critical biography of James Baldwin, (Penguin) forthcoming in 2024. These volumes, as well as Goldsby’s numerous articles and chapters, which have appeared in American Literary History, the Paris Review, the Yale Journal of Criticism, and other publications, provide transformational insight both on Black literary cultures and on American history.

Goldsby’s digital scholarship has been a model for scholars across and beyond the humanities, and has changed how researchers and archivists approach the study of Black American culture. Most recently, her work as the co-principal investigator of the Black Bibliography Project, a collaboration with colleagues at Rutgers University and archivists at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, has made understudied works by Black authors available and accessible to new audiences through digital finding aids and new guidelines and standards for cataloguing Black literature. In 2019, Goldsby and her colleagues received startup funds for this project from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and they are planning now to scale it up to a nationwide effort. Goldsby’s previous digital project, Mapping the Stacks: A Guide to Black Chicago’s Hidden Archives and Uncovering New Chicago Archives, made archival collections that document untold episodes in American history available to researchers for the first time. For this project, which served as a national demonstration model for initiatives across the U.S., Goldsby received major funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and was recognized with awards from the Council of Library Information and Resources, the Chicago Friends of the Amistad Research Center, and the Chicago Public Library.

Goldsby also is a legendary teacher: in 2016, she received the Graduate Mentor Award, and in 2017, the Sidonie Miskimin Clauss ’75 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities. In addition, her service to Yale has been exceptional. As chair of the Department of African American Studies since 2015, she has stewarded the department during periods of change and spearheaded search efforts that have brought transformational new faculty to Yale. Under her leadership, undergraduate interest in the field has flourished, and the number of students in the major has greatly increased.

Goldsby has served on key university committees, including the executive committees of the Whitney Humanities Center and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the implementation committee that led to the new FAS Tenure and Appointments process in 2016, the University Budget Committee, and bodies devoted to promoting inclusion on campus, including the Advisory Committee to the FAS Deputy Dean of Diversity and Faculty Development.

Beyond Yale, Goldsby served as a trustee and chair of the Board of Supervisors of the English Institute, which sponsors and publishes field-leading scholarship in literary criticism, theory, and history. She was instrumental in relocating the institute’s annual symposium and organizational home to Yale in 2015. She has served as a keynote speaker at the Newberry Library, the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School, Harvard’s History of the Book Seminar, the Chicago Cultural Center, the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago, UCLA, Oxford University, and other institutions.

She earned her bachelor of arts degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from Yale.

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