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Thulani Davis

4121 Helen C. White Hall

Thulani Davis is an interdisciplinary scholar and writer working in several genres. She is currently at work on a book entitled, Fugitive Freedoms: A Race, Politics & Black Culture Circuit Before Civil Rights. Her teaching interests are black political thought, slavery, Reconstruction, and African American literature. A longtime journalist, critic and theater artist, she is a student of literary theory and innovation in performance arts. She has been a recipient of a Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Writers Award, a PEW Foundation National Theatre Artist Residency, and a Charles H. Revson Fellowship on the Future of New York City. She was an inaugural fellow of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the City University of New York. Davis is also a past Grammy winner and Grammy nominee, and was honored by the Veterans Committee of the Congressional Black Caucus for work on the 2011 National Monument designation of Fortress Monroe, VA, site of the 1619 landing of Africans and the onset of the flight of enslaved people during the Civil War. She was the 2013 recipient of the Lerner Prize in American Studies at New York University, and she is a 2010 Distinguished Alumna of Barnard College and a 2013 Barnard Africana Studies Distinguished Alumna, among other awards.


  • B.A. Barnard College, 1970 (English)
  • M.A. New York University, 2008 (Individualized Study, History, American Studies, Visual Arts)
  • Ph.D. New York University, 2014 (American Studies)

    My Confederate Kinfolk: A 21st Century Freedwoman Discovers Her Roots, Basic Books, 2006
    Everybody’s Ruby, Samuel French, 2000
    Amistad, Lyric Opera of Chicago, 1997
    Maker of Saints, Scribner, 1996
    Malcolm X: The Great Photographs, Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1993
    1959, Grove Press, 1992
    Playing the Changes, Wesleyan University Press, 1985
    All the Renegade Ghosts Rise, Anemone Press, 1978

    Selected Publications
    For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights, Maurice Berger, Yale, 2010
    The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York, Cambridge, 2010
    Village Voice articles, 1979-2004
    The Color of Theater: Race, Culture and Contemporary Performance, Continuum, 2002
    War of the Words: 20 Years of Writing on Contemporary Literature, Three Rivers Press, 2001
    Soul: Black Power, Politics and Pleasure, NYU Press, 1998
    Bomb: Speak Fiction and Poetry! G & B Arts International, 1998Rock She Wrote: Women Write about Rock, Pop and Rap, Delta Press, 1995
    My Soul Is a Witness: African-American Women’s Spirituality, Beacon, 1995
    Bomb Interviews, City Lights Books, 1992
    From Totems to Hip Hop, Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2003
    Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Henry Holt, 1994
    Walk on the Wild Side:  Urban American Poetry Since 1975, Scribner’s, 1994
    Moon Marked and Touched by Sun: Plays by African-American Women, TCG, 1994
    The Wesleyan Tradition: Four Decades of American Poetry, Wesleyan/New England, 1993
    The New Cavalcade: African-American Writing from 1760 to the Present, Howard, Press, 1993
    Art Against Apartheid, Ikon Inc., 1986
    The Village Voice Anthology, William Morrow, 1982
    Third World Women, Third World Communications, 1972

    Selected Scripts- Film & Theater
    The Sojourner Washing Society, A Musical in Gospel & Blues, Steven Robinson, composer
                2012, First reading, July 2014, Alliance Theater & Black Arts Festival, Atlanta
    In Ragtime: James Reese Europe, 2011, Louis Massiah, Producer, Scribe Video Center
    Night of Fire, DCI Productions, 2010 [In development]
    Maker of Saints, DCI Productions, 2011 [In development]
    The Souls of Black Folk: An Oratorio for Five Actors, CUNY Grad Center & National Black Arts             Festival, 2003
    Paid in Full, Miramax, 2002
    I’ll Make Me a World: A Century of African American Arts, 1999,PBS Series, Blackside, Inc.
    Everybody’s Ruby: Story of a Murder in Florida, Premier, New York Shakespeare Festival, 1999
    Dark Passages, Miya Masaoka, composer, World Premiere, San Francisco Asian Art Museum,     1998
    Amistad, An Opera, Anthony Davis, composer, World Premiere, Lyric Opera of Chicago, 1997
    W. E. B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices,” 1996, Louis Massiah, Producer, Scribe Video
    A Woman Unadorned, song cycle,  Bernadette Speech, composer, Lincoln Center, 1994
    Adaptation, Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, New York Shakespeare Festival, 1990
    The E. & O. Line, an electronic opera, Anne LeBaron, composer, Univ. of the District of   Columbia, 1989
    X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X, Anthony Davis, composer, World Premiere, New York City             Opera, 1986
    Where the Mississippi Meets the Amazon [w/ Hagedorn & Shange] New York Shakespeare            Festival, 1977

    Recent Lectures & Presentations

    Confronting Racial Capitalism: The Black Radical Tradition & Cultures of Liberation, City University of New York Graduate Center & New York University, November 20-21, 2014. Title: “The Building of Political Structures on Networks after the Civil War,”

    Barnard College, New York City, October 17, 2013, keynote on the announcement of Africana Studies as a department. Topic: “Fugitive Freedoms: A Race, Politics and Blues Circuit Before Civil Rights.”