Dr. Leslie Alexander: Historian. Professor. Author. Activist

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Academic Biography

I am a specialist in early African American and African Diaspora history, focusing on late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Black culture, political consciousness, and resistance movements. My first monograph, African or American?: Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861, explores Black culture, identity, and political activism during the early national and antebellum eras. I am also the co-editor of two collections, “We Shall Independent Be:” African American Place-Making and the Struggle to Claim Space in the United States and the Encyclopedia of African American History, and I am the author of the widely read op-ed piece, “The Birth of a Nation is an Epic Fail,” which appeared in The Nation.


My current research project, "The Birth of Black Internationalism: African Americans and the Battle for Haitian Sovereignty” is forthcoming with the University of Illinois Press. Opening in 1804, with the declaration of Haitian independence, this manuscript reveals how the struggle for Haitian sovereignty inspired U.S. black activists to develop a transnational political consciousness and to shape U.S. foreign policy towards African diasporic nations. It also exposes why the U.S. government denied Haiti’s sovereignty for several decades, how U.S. black leaders pressured the U.S. government for changes in its foreign policy towards Haiti, and what the debate over Haitian independence revealed about the larger battle over race and slavery throughout the Atlantic World. To learn more about this project, click the link to the right.


I have been fortunate to receive several prestigious fellowships, including the Ford Foundation Senior Fellowship, and I have given considerable service to the discipline. Currently, I am the President of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), and an Executive Council member of the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS). I also serve on the Advisory Councils for the Journal of African American History, The Black Scholar, the International Journal for Africana Studies, and the Harvey Goldberg Series for Understanding and Teaching History


I received my B.A. from Stanford University and my M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University. During my career, I have won several significant awards including the coveted University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching and the University Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award at Ohio State University (OSU).