Board Members

17 March, 2016

mandalas amarilla

CAAR has been run by a board of distinguished European- and US-based Black Studies scholars.  Please find below the list of the members of the current board.


Violet Showers Johnson was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and grew up in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, West Africa. She received her BA (Honors in History) from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone; MA from the University of New Brunswick, Canada; and  Ph.D. from Boston College. She taught at Fourah Bay College before coming to the United States in 1985 on a Fulbright scholarship. After twenty years at Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia, she moved to Texas A&M University in July 2012. She is Professor of History and Director of Africana Studies.  A naturalized American, Johnson’s international personal and academic background has shaped much of her work as a teacher and scholar. She focuses on race, ethnicity and immigration, African American history, African history, and the history of the African Diaspora. She has written extensively on the Black immigrant experience in America.  Her publications include The Other Black Bostonians: West Indians in Boston (Indiana University Press, 2006); “What, then, is the African American? African and Afro-Caribbean Identities in Black America,” and “Recreating Sustainable Communities in Exile: Leadership Roles of Sierra Leonean Internally Displaced and Refugee Women in Freetown, Atlanta and London.” Her most recent publication is a monograph co-authored with Marilyn Halter entitled African & American: West Africans in Post-Civil Rights America (NYU Press, 2014). She is currently working on a single authored monograph tentatively titled “When Blackness Stings: African, Afro-Caribbean Immigrants and Race and Racism in Late Twentieth-Century America.”

to top

foto-silvia pilarSilvia Castro Borrego is Lecturer of English and North American literature and culture at the University of Málaga (Spain). She was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Washington during the academic year 1995-96,  lecturer at the JFK Institute in Berlin (Germany) in the summer of 2003, and visiting scholar in the summers of 2012  and 2013 at Spelman College (Atlanta). She has published book chapters and articles on African American literature and the literature of the African diaspora. Among these are “Motherlands as Gendered Spaces: Julie Dash’s Film and Novel Daughters of the Dust” in Family in Africa and The African Diaspora (Salamanca, 2004), “There is more to it than meets the eye: Alice Walker’s The Temple of My Familiar, a Narrative of the Diaspora,” Revista de Estudios Norteamericanos (Seville, 2003), “Double Consciousness” Encyclopedia of American Studies (New York, 2001). She is the co-editor of the book Identity, Migration and Women’s Bodies as Sites of Knowledge and Transgression (Oviedo: KRK, 2009) an interdisciplinary study of Migration and Diaspora from a postcolonial and gender perspective. Her most recent publications include the co-edited volumes Identities on the Move: Contemporary Representations of New Sexualities and Gender Identities (Lexington, 2015), Cultural Migrations and Gendered Subjects: Colonial and Postcolonial Representations of the Female Body (Cambridge Scholars, 2011), the edited volume The Search for Wholeness and Diaspora Literacy in African American Literature (Cambridge Scholars, 2011), and the articles “Re(claiming) Subjectivity and Transforming the Politics of Silence through the Search for Wholeness in Push” in the journal Atlantis (Oviedo 2014),  “Integration, Assimilation, and Identity in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun and Barbara and Carlton Molette’s Rosalee Pritchett in the Revista Canaria de Estudios Ingleses (2015) and “Claiming the Politics of Articulation through Agency and Wholeness in Two Afro-Hispanic Postcolonial Narratives” in the JIWS (2016).

to top

lessane_image_3000dpiPatricia Williams Lessane is a native Chicagoan. Like many African-Americans, her late parents—James and Annie Ruth Williams- migrated to the north in the 1950s in search of opportunity and a better life. She is the youngest of their four children.

Dr. Williams Lessane is the Executive Director of The College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture where she is a tenured faculty member in the library. In 2010, she joined The College of Charleston as the Executive Director of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture, where she is an affiliated faculty member in Sociology and Anthropology and African American Studies.

Dr. Williams Lessane began her teaching career at Chicago State University in the English department in 1996. She began her museum career at The Field Museum in Chicago as a graduate researcher in the Center for Cultural Understanding and Change, and was the Project Administrator for the museum’s Diversity Project from 2001-06. From 2008-10, she worked as a consultant on the Museum of Science and Industry’s annual Black Creativity exhibition and programs, where she developed an impressive slate of lectures, workshops, and panel discussions around African Americans in film, medicine, and the green energy movement. From 2008-2010, she was Assistant Professor in the School of Professional and Liberal Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago.

Dr. Williams Lessane is an alum of the Seminar for Historical Administration’s Developing History Leaders program and the Management Development Program at Harvard University’s Institute of Higher Education.

Dr. Williams Lessane is currently co-editing two volumes of work: We Carry These Memories Inside of We: Celebrating Daughters of the Dust and the Blacks Arts Aesthetic of Julie Dash under contract with University of South Carolina Press and Dreams Deferred, Promises and Struggles; Perceptions and Interrogations of Empire, Nation, and Society, under contract with Liverpool University Press. Her 2015, New York Times editorial, “No Sanctuary in Charleston” gave personal and social commentary about African American life in Charleston following the massacre at Mother Emmanuel Church.

In 2013, Charlie Magazine named her “One of Charleston’s 50 Most Progressive People”. Dr. Williams Lessane and the Avery Research Center were recently awarded a National Endowment of the Arts grant to create and produce Julie Dash’s current documentary project entitled Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl on the life and work of Gullah icon and writer, Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor. She is the Editor of SC Black History Bugle, a children’s magazine developed by the Avery Research Center for the SC Department of Education.

Dr. Williams Lessane is an Executive Board member of Collegium of African American Research (CAAR), a board member of the Library Society, a member of the TUW African American Leadership Council, and member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She holds a BA in English from Fisk University, a MALS from Dartmouth College,  a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from University of Illinois at Chicago, and a certificate of completion from the Harvard Institute of Higher Education Management Development Program (MDP). She is the mother of two beautiful and precocious children; Osayende Lessane, 15, and Aniyah Ruth, 12.

to top

Arlette Frund is an Associate Professor of American Literature at the
Université François-Rabelais-Tours, France. She specializes in African
American literature and culture.  She is the author of Phillis Wheatley et
Olaudah Equiano : Figures pionnières de la diaspora atlantique (Michel
Houdiard Editeur 2006). She has edited Politiques du sensible dans le
monde afro-américain et diasporique (L’Harmattan 2015), et BMA: The Sonia
Sanchez Literary Review 9.2 (Drexel University 2004) ; co-edited “La
couleur du temps dans la culture afro-américaine,” Cahiers de recherches
afro-américaines Transversalité 1 (Presses universitaires
François-Rabelais 2005), and “Ecritures de l’histoire
africaine-américaine”, Annales du monde anglophone 18 (2003). Her most
recent articles were published in Black France / France Noire: The History
and Politics of Blackness (Duke University Press 2012), in Toward An
Intellectual History of Black Women (The University of North Carolina
Press 2015), and in Politiques du sensible dans le monde afro-américain et
diasporique (L’Harmattan 2015).

to top

fa940096caHeike Raphael-Hernandez: Professor of English at the University of Maryland University College, Europe, and Interim Professor in American Cultural Studies at the University of Würzburg, Germany. In 2009, she was Visiting Professor in the African Diaspora Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Together with Cheryl Finley (Cornell U) and Leigh Raiford (UC Berkeley), she recently was named ACLS Fellow; they were awarded a two-year Collaborative Research Fellowship for 2016-2017 for their joined research project “Visualizing Travel, Gendering the African Diaspora.” She is co-editor of Migrating the Black Body: The African Diaspora and Visual Culture (with Leigh Raiford, UC Berkeley) (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016); editor of Blackening Europe: The African American Presence (Routledge 2004) and AfroAsian Encounters: Culture, History, Politics (co-edited with Shannon Steen, NYU Press 2006). She is author of Contemporary African American Women Writers and Ernst Bloch’s Principle of Hope (Edwin Mellen Press, 2008) and Fear, Desire, and the Stranger Next Door: Global South Immigration in American Film (University of Washington Press, forthcoming).

to top

Magdalena J. Zaborowska (B.A., M.A., Warsaw University, Poland [1987]; Ph.D., University of Oregon [1992], USA), Professor, Departments of American Culture and Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Research and teaching fields: literary and cultural studies approaches to intersections of social space and transatlantic discourses on race, nationality, (queer) sexuality, and gender; African American literature (esp., James Baldwin), immigrant ethnicities, feminist, and critical race theory; post-totalitarian East-Central Europe.

She has taught and been a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Oregon, Furman University, Tulane University, Aarhus University in Denmark, University of Italy in Cagliari (Sardinia) and Université Paul-Valéry in Montpellier in France. Books: the MLA award-winning: James Baldwin’s Turkish Decade: Erotics of Exile (Duke UP 2009) and How We Found America: Reading Gender through East European Immigrant Narratives (University of North Carolina Press, 1995); edited and co-edited collections: Other Americans, Other Americas: The Politics and Poetics of Multiculturalism (Aarhus University Press, 1998), The Puritan Origins of American Sex: Religion, Sexuality, and National Identity in American Literature (Routledge, 2001), and Over the Wall/After the Fall: Post-Communist Cultures in the East-West Gaze (Indiana University Press, 2004). In addition to numerous articles and chapters published in the United States and Europe, her current book projects include Me and My House: James Baldwin and Black Domesticity (forthcoming from Duke UP) and a monograph in progress on the proliferation of American notions of race and sexuality in post-Cold War Eastern Europe, Racing Borderlands.

to top

Charles I. Nero received his PhD from Indiana University.  Currently, he is
a Professor of Rhetoric, African American Studies, and American Cultural
Studies at Bates College (Maine, USA) where he teaches courses in film and
literature. A pioneer in African American queer studies, his 1991 essay
“Toward a Black Gay Aesthetic:  Signifying in Contemporary Black Gay
Literature,” was the first essay to provide a systematic critical framework
for the analysis of black gay texts.  His essays on film, literature, and
queer studies have appeared in the academic journals *Camera Obscura:
Feminist Media Studies*, *Public Culture*, *FORECAAST (Forum for European
Contributions in African American Studies)*, *Callaloo:  A Journal of
African Diaspora Arts and Letters*, *The Howard Journal of Communication*,
and *The Journal of the History of Sexuality* and in the anthologies *Brother
to Brother:  New Writings by Black Gay Men*, *Black Queer Studies in the
Millennium*, *Out in the South*, *Queer Representations: Reading Lives,
Reading Cultures-A Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader*, *Our
Voices: Essays in Culture, Ethnicity, and Communication*, *Radical Teacher:
A Socialist, Feminist, and Anti-Racist Journal on the Theory and Practice
of Teaching*, *African American Literary Theory*, *African American
Literary Criticism*, and *African American Women in American Music*.  Nero
wrote the introduction for the Cleis Press edition of Essex Hemphill’s
Prose and Poetry* (2000).

to top


Claire Oberon Garcia is Professor of English and Director of the Race,
Ethnicity and Migration Studies program at Colorado College. Her teaching
and research is primarily focused on women and black internationalism. She
is currently working on a book on black women writers in interwar Paris
and a chapter titled “Black Women Writers, Black
Internationalism and the Struggle for Citizenship” in Black French
Women and the Struggle for Equality: 1848-2015, Félix Germain and Silyane
Larcher, editors.
Her recent publications include “‘On being young- a woman- and colored’ in
Paris and Tangiers:  The “strange longings” of Anita Thompson Dickinson
Reynolds’ Early Years” (Palimpsest: A Journal onWomen, Gender, and the
Black Atlantic, Fall 2015); “After Delacroix, After Said: Et les Femmes?”
(exhibit catalogue, ReOrientations: Defining and Defying 19th Century
French Images of the Arab World. The IDEA Space at Colorado College, March
2015); From Uncle Tom’s Cabin to The Help: Critical Perspectives on
White-Authored Narratives of Black Life, Lead Editor with Vershawn Young
and Charise Pimentel (Palgrave-Macmillan August 2014); “’No one, I am
sure, is ever homesick in Paris’: Jessie Fauset’s French Imaginary” (book
chapter in Paris, Capital of the Black Atlantic: Literature, Modernity,
and Diaspora, Jonathan Eburne and Jeremy Braddock, editors. Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2013); “Race, Mad Men, and Nostalgia,” March,
2012); “Black Women Writers, Modernism, and Paris,”( International Journal
of Francophone Studies, April, 2011) “Citizens of Babylon: Henry James’s
Modern Parisian Women” (book chapter in Henry James’s Europe: Heritage and
Transfers, Dennis Tredy, Annick Duperray and Adrian Harding, editors. Open
University Press, 2011).

to top