Political science professor is recognized for scholarship on African-American freedom movements and the contemporary politics of race.


Theoharis Named CUNY Distinguished Professor of Political Science

July 23, 2014

New CUNY Distinguished Professor of Political Science Jeanne Theoharis is an expert on African-American history and urban studies.

Professor of Political Science Jeanne Theoharis has been named CUNY Distinguished Professor, the highest faculty rank. The title is conferred on an individual by the University Board of Trustees in recognition of exceptional scholarly achievement.

A leading scholar of African-American freedom movements and the contemporary politics of race, Theoharis is noted for her internationally acclaimed book The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Beacon, 2013). The first scholarly biography of the civil rights icon, the book is a deep examination of Parks’s life, challenging the popular perception of the activist as an accidental hero by pointing out that her political activism reached far beyond that infamous moment in 1955 on a Montgomery, Ala. bus when she refused to give up her seat a white man. In February of this year, Theoharis took home an Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), besting luminaries such as Maya Angelou and Stanley Crouch, who were nominated in the same category.

Theoharis was moved to write the biography by “the politics and dangers of many of the popular images of the civil rights movement we have in circulation today,” arguing that a more complete story of Parks was necessary and overdue.

“Through her persistence, Professor Theoharis has demonstrated her lifelong interest in reshaping, and revitalizing the very important field of historical study,” said Brooklyn College president Karen L. Gould at a June 30 CUNY board meeting, in which Theoharis was honored for her new appointment.

A graduate of Harvard University, Theoharis earned her Ph.D. in American culture from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She is an expert on twentieth-century African-American history, the contemporary politics of race and gender, social policy, and urban studies, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Rockefeller Humanities Fellowship and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. From 2007–2009, Theoharis served as an endowed chair in Brooklyn College Women's Studies Department.

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