Header image is a detail of This is Harlem by Jacob Lawrence. Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. © 2021 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. For more information, click here.


Dr. Martha S. Jones on Hard Histories at Hopkins and Committing to Knowledge

Recorded on 03/21/2024
Posted in TIE Podcast

TIE Podcast · Dr. Martha S. Jones on Hard Histories at Hopkins and Committing to Knowledge

Dr. Martha S. Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, and Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, returns to the podcast to discuss her research project Hard Histories at Hopkins, which investigates the history of racism, discrimination, and slavery at Johns Hopkins University and its impact on the institution and communities in Baltimore. Toward Inclusive Excellence editor-in-chief Alexia Hudson-Ward chats with Martha on the development and genesis of the project, outlining its aim to “lift the hood” of the scholarly process with a webinar series and weekly posts on Substack. In addition, Martha highlights the contributions of Hard Histories’ student-led labs that provide consistent updates and continuity to the project throughout the year.

Further, Martha digs into why this work is labeled as “hard,” explaining the emotional and psychological toll that studying slavery takes on scholars and her own personal experience with this research. Speaking to the project’s impact at Johns Hopkins, Martha explains how it affects the legacy and standing of an institution as a pillar for education. To close, Martha and Alexia follow-up on their 2021 conversation on the banning of Martha’s book, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All. Underscoring the threat book bans and censorship pose to American education, Martha reiterates the need to stay vigilant amongst efforts to sanitize the past and endanger democratic freedom.


About the guest:

Dr. Martha S. Jones headshot

Dr. Martha S. Jones
Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, Professor at the SNF Agora Institute
Johns Hopkins University

I am the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, and a Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University. I am a legal and cultural historian whose research explores how Black people have shaped the story of American democracy and today extends to work on memorial landscapes, family memoir. I also direct the Hard Histories at Hopkins Project which, since 2020, has examined the role of slavery and racism at the Johns Hopkins university and hospital.  I am on research leave during the 2023-24 academic year as a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Germany) and will return to campus in fall 2024.

My most recent book, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (2020), received the 2021 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History. My 2018 book, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (2018), was recognized with awards from the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Society for Legal History, and the Baltimore City Historical Society Scholars. I am also author of All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture 1830-1900 (2007) and a coeditor of Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (2015), together with many articles, reviews, and essays. 

I am a public historian, writing for broader audiences at the New York Times, Washington Post, the AtlanticUSA TodayPublic BooksTalking Points Memo, Politico, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Time and have been an expert consultant for museum, film, and video productions with the Obama Presidential Center, Monument Lab, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture, PBS American Experience, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Netflix, and Arte (France.)  

I hold a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, a J.D. from the CUNY School of Law, and a B.A. from Hunter College. Prior to my academic career, I was a public interest litigator in New York City, recognized for my work with a Charles H. Revson Fellowship on the Future of the City of New York at Columbia University. 

In 2023, I was appointed by President Joe Biden a member of the Permanent Committee on the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise at the Library of Congress. I am a past co-president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and today serve on the boards and committees for the Library of Congress Kluge Center, the National Women’s History Museum, the US Capitol Historical Society, the Johns Hopkins University Press, the CUNY Law School Foundation, the Journal of American Constitutional History, the Journal of African American History, and Slavery & Abolition

I live in Baltimore, Maryland, and Paris, France, with my husband, historian Jean Hébrard. 


Watch the video recording of the conversation:

Listen to the 2021 podcast episode with Martha.


Episode theme music: Black is the Night by Jeris (c) copyright 2014 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial (3.0) license. Ft: DJ Vadim (djvadim) , NiGiD


Learn more about Toward Inclusive Excellence:

The ongoing TIE Podcast series will feature provocative, in-depth conversations with important figures in the higher education community to help administrators and academic leaders understand racism from new perspectives and to promote racial justice on their campuses. 

Check out the Toward Inclusive Excellence blog, which covers issues related to racial and social justice and provides actionable resources for those in higher education and beyond.

Be sure to sign up for alerts on the latest Toward Inclusive Excellence (TIE) content, whether it’s a new blog post, podcast episode, or webinar.

Interested in contributing to TIE? Send an email to Deb V. at Choice dvillavicencio@ala-choice.org with your topic idea.