Dr. Joanne M. Braxton is Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Professor of the Humanities at the College of William and Mary, where she has directed the Middle Passage Project since 1995. A recognized scholarly authority on Black Atlantic literature and culture, Braxton has taught courses on the Middle Passage in the US and abroad for many years. She has written extensively on rituals of remembrance and created them in several states within the United States, as well as in Germany, Cuba and the Netherlands.
A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Dr. Braxton holds an M.Div. from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University and is active in campus and regional ministry as a member of The Great Awakening United Church of Christ in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She holds a Ph.D. from Yale University, where her doctoral dissertation was directed by the distinguished black historian, John W. Blassingame. She is the author or editor of several books, including Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition (1989), Wild Women in the Whirlwind: the Contemporary Renaissance in Afra-American Literature and Culture (1989) andMonuments of the Black Atlantic: Slavery and Memory (2004). Dr. Braxton also editedThe Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1993), now in its 7th printing.
Dr. Braxton is widely sought after as a keynote speaker, and gave the keynote address at the Black Liberation in the Americas conference at Munster University in Germany in 1999. She also presided over a portion of the historic DuBois Institute Transatlantic Slaving and the African Diaspora: Using the DuBois Institute Dataset of Slaving Voyages conference sponsored by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, VA in 1999.
In May 2000, as director of The Middle Passage Project, Dr. Braxton convened the historic Monuments of the Black Atlantic conference at the College in partnership with the Collegium for African American Research (Germany), the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation and Hampton University. Her friend Tom Feelings was the keynote speaker on May 25, 2000. She has been a trustee and a commencement speaker at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, as well as a Senior Fulbright Professor abroad and a Fellow at the DuBois Institute at Harvard University. Her play Crossing a Deep River: A Ritual Drama in Three Movements has shown at Harvard, William and Mary, the National Black Theatre Festival and Morgan State University, where the Theatre Department built a course around Deep River.
Dr. Braxton has received many awards, including the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia "Outstanding Educator Award," and three lifetime achievement awards, including a 2002 Oni Award from the International Black Women's Congress "for uncompromising commitment to uplifting the lives of African people."
In 2012, Dr. Braxton convened a team of three writers who created a ritual of remembrance for those Africans lost in the transatlantic slaving trade for use in 178 port cities affected by the trade. She also teaches and writes about the making of America in Virginia in the 17th and 18th centuries and heads the Middle Passage Project 1619 Initiative at the College of William and Mary.