William and Mary

Robert  Vinson

Assistant Professor, History

Office : Blair 211
Email : [[rtvins]]
Regional Areas of Research : Ancient to Modern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, United States
Thematic Areas of Research : African American, Comparative and Transnational, Cultural/Intellectual, Imperialism and Colonialism, Race and Ethnicity, Religion

Research Interests

African Diaspora, Southern Africa and African American History


Robert Trent Vinson received his Ph.D. in African History from Howard University. He has written The Americans are Coming!: The Dream of African American Liberation in Segregationist South Africa (Ohio University Press, January 2012).  He is now completing two additional book projects, Shaka's Progeny: Zulu Cultures and the Making of the Modern Atlantic World, co-authored with Benedict Carton and Crossing the Water: African Americans and South Africa, 1890-1965, a documentary history co-edited with Robert Edgar and David Anthony (forthcoming, Ohio University Press).  Vinson has also published several articles, including in the Journal of African History, the African Studies Review, and the Journal of Southern African Studies and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Sasakawa Foundation have funded his research. Vinson is on the editorial board of Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies.

Vinson also was co-chair of the Lemon Project at William and Mary, a long-term research project named after Mr. Lemon, one of many enslaved blacks owned by the College of William and Mary before the Civil War. The Lemon Project involves College faculty, staff and students as well as members of the Greater Williamsburg community.  The goal of the project is to better understand, chronicle, and preserve the history of blacks at the College and in the community and to promote a deeper understanding of the indebtedness of the College to the work and support of its diverse neighbors.



The Americans Are Coming!: Dreams of African American Liberation in Segregationist South Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012)


Books in Progress

Crossing the Water: African Americans and South Africa, 1890-1965: A Documentary History (with David H. Anthony and Robert R. Edgar, Athens: Ohio University Press, forthcoming)

 Shaka’s Progeny: Zulu Cultures and the Making of the Modern Atlantic World (co-authored with Benedict Carton)

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“Abantu-Batho, Garveyism and Black Transnational Print Culture” in Peter Limb ed. Abantu-Batho: The History of an African newspaper (Johannesburg: University of Witwatersrand Press, 2012)

“Providential Design: American Negroes and Garveyism in South Africa” in Michael O. West, William G. Martin, and Fanon Che Wilkins eds. From Toussaint to Tupac: The Black International since the Age of Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

“Zulus, African-Americans and the African Diaspora” with Robert R. Edgar, in Benedict Carton, John Laband and Jabulani Sithole ed. Being Zulu: Contesting Identities Past and Present (Pietermaritzburg: University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press, 2008)

“Zulus Abroad: Cultural Representations and Educational Experiences of the Zulu in America, 1879-1945”, with Robert Edgar Journal of Southern African Studies 33, 1, (March 2007), 43-62.

“Sea Kaffirs: ‘American Negroes’ and the Gospel of Garveyism in Segregationist South Africa” Journal of African History 47, 2, (July 2006), 281-303.

Citizenship Over Race?: African Americans in American-South African Diplomacy, 1890-1925” Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Comparative Studies 15, (April 2004), 13-32; updated and revised in the electronic journal World History Connected, 1, 2, (January 2005)

“Poking Holes in the Sky: Professor James Thaele, American Negroes, and Modernity in 1920s Segregationist South Africa”, with Amanda D. Kemp, African Studies Review 44, 1, (April 2000) 141-159.

“The Law As Lawbreaker: The Promotion and Encouragement of the Atlantic Slave Trade by the New York Judiciary System, 1857-1862” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 20, 2, (July 1996), 35-58.

Book Reviews

Timothy J. Juckes, “Opposition in South Africa: The Political Leadership of Z.K. Matthews, Nelson Mandela and Steven Biko” The Negro History Bulletin, 60, 3, July-Sept. 1997

James Meriwether, “Proudly We Can Be Africans: African Americans and Africa, 1935-61” International Journal of African Historical Studies 35, 2-3, 2002

Francis Njubi Nesbitt, “Race Against Sanctions: African Americans Against Apartheid, 1946-1994” Journal of American History 92, 2 (September 2005)

Hakim Ali and Marika Sherwood, “Pan-African History: Political Figures from Africa and the Diaspora since 1787” H-South Africa Scholarly Discussion Network (2005)

Andrew Zimmerman, “Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 8, 2 (Summer 2011)



B.A. Psychology, 1992

University of Nevada-Las Vegas

M.A. History, 1995

Howard University

Ph.D. (with distinction), History, 2001

Howard University

Academic Positions

Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Virginia 2002

Assistant Professor, Washington Univ. in St. Louis 2002-07

Visiting Assistant Professor, College of William and Mary 2006-2007

Assistant Professor, College of William and Mary 2007-10

Associate Professor, College of William and Mary 2010-2011

University Associate Professor for Teaching Excellence, College of William and Mary, 2011-

Courses Taught


History of Africa before 1800

History of Africa since 1800

History of South Africa

Modern History of South Africa (since 1870)

Gender, Sexuality and Kinship in Africa

The Rise, Fall and Legacies of Apartheid


Transnational History

History of the African Diaspora

The Atlantic Slave Trade

History of Pan-Africanism

The Global Color Line: The U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa

African Americans and Africa

African American History in Global Context: The Black International


African American History

African American History before 1865

African American History since 1865