Barbara Ransby

Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women's Studies and History


Ph.D. History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
M.A. History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
B.A. History, Columbia University

Research Interests

Barbara Ransby is an historian, writer, and longtime political activist. Ransby has published dozens of articles and essays in popular and scholarly venues. She is most notably the author of an award-winning biography of civil rights activist Ella Baker, entitled Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (University of North Carolina, 2003), which won no less than six major awards. She most recently published Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson (Yale University Press, 2013), which has also received numerous awards. 

Barbara is currently working a study of African American feminist organizations in the 1970s. She serves on the editorial board of the London-based journal, Race and Class, and a number of non-profit civic and media organizations.

For an excerpt of Eslanda, please click on the image below:


A Harlem Love Story,

We’ll try to climb that ladder to fame and fortune.

-Eslanda Robesen

In 1919, Essie lived in a tiny studio apartment at 250 Seventh Avenue near 133rd Street, a prime location in the center of Harlem, New York. On humid summer nights, people would hang out of their windows, trying to catch a breeze, or gather on the stoops and street corners to mingle and commiserate about the heat. That strip of Seventh Avenue would earn a lofty place in African American history. It had been the site of massive anti-lynching rallies and fiery speeches by leaders such as A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey. By the end of World War I, Harlem was a center of Black social and cultural activity. Within a half mile of the lively intersection where Essie lived, Langston Hughes would pen his elegant poetry; James Weldon Johnson would write the Black national anthem, “Lift every Voice and Sing”; Zora Neale Hurston and Jessie Fauset would pioneer a Black women’s literary tradition; and jazz legends Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, and Thelonious Monk would perform some of the century’s most unforgettable music…

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Contact Info

Office: 1204 UH
Phone: (312) 996-2961
Fax: (312) 996-5799
Curriculum Vitae