LEWISBURG, Pa. — Author and noted African American history scholar Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the Charles and Mary Beard Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University who is is the co-executive producer of the HBO series The Gilded Age, will present the 2023 Black Experiences Distinguished Lecturer for the Center for Race Ethnicity and Gender and a guest speaker for The Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives and Cultures. Dunbar’s free, public talk, entitled “Joy and Pain: Representations of Black Life from Slavery through the Gilded Age,” will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in Holmes Hall’s Hislop Auditorium and will discuss the ways that histories are curated and will address the responsibilities of scholars to engage narratives of Black pain and traumas along with love and triumph.
Though set in the 1880s, Dunbar predicts viewers will easily draw parallels to today of the wealth inequality and social justice themes explored in The Gilded Age. Dunbar’s academic work has several public facing components from popular books, to a TV period drama as well as her former work as the first Director of the Library Company’s Program in African American History.
A late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century scholar with a specialization in African American women’s history, Dunbar is interested in urban slavery, emancipation studies and the intersection of race and gender in American history. Her research, teaching and lecturing focus on the uncomfortable concepts of slavery, racial injustice and gender inequality.
A prolific author, Dunbar’s books include She Came to Slay (November 2019, Simon & Schuster), an illustrated tribute to Harriet Tubman, and her newest Susie King Taylor (Aladdin September 2023) — the first biography in her middle grade series on Black women’s history. Her second book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge was a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction and a winner of the 2018 Frederick Douglass Book Award. Dunbar is increasingly attentive to how historians can make their work legible to lay audiences.
In addition to her faculty title, Dunbar serves as Rutgers-New Brunswick’s campus director of the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice and from 2018-22, she served as the national director of the Association of Black Women Historians.
Dunbar is the 37th annual Black Experiences Lecturer at Bucknell.