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Robert Trent Vinson

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, 2012) and Albert Luthuli: Mandela before Mandela (Ohio University Press, 2018).  Vinson is also the co-author of two additional books in preparation, 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 book chapters and articles and reviews, including in the American Historical Review, the Journal of African History, the African Studies Review, the Journal of Southern African Studies and the Journal of American Studies. Vinson is on the editorial board of Michigan State University Press and Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies.

  • The Americans Are Coming!: Dreams of African American Liberation in Segregationist South Africa (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012)
  • Albert Luthuli (Athens, Ohio University Press, 2018)

Books in Progress

  • Shaka’s Progeny: Zulu Cultures and the Making of the Modern Atlantic World (co-authored with Benedict Carton)
  • Crossing the Water: African Americans and South Africa, 1890-1965: A Documentary History (with David H. Anthony and Robert R. Edgar, (advance contract with Ohio University Press)

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

  • "Hidden" in Plain Sight: towards a history of Garveyite women in South Africa and the increased visibility of Africa in global Garveyism in Ronald Stephens and Adam Ewing eds. Global Garveyism (Gainesville: University of Florida, 2019)
  • “Albert Luthuli’s Private Struggle: How an Icon of Peace Came to Accept Sabotage in South Africa,” with Benedict Carton Journal of African History 58, 1, January 2018
  • “Up From Slavery and Down with Apartheid!: African Americans and Black South Africans against the Global Color Line,” Special Issue, The Global South in the Black Atlantic, Journal of American Studies 51, 3 August 2018) 
  • “The Transnational Jeremiad Tradition in American and South African Christianity” Special Issues, Transnational Christianities, South African Historical Journal (currently under peer review) 
  • “Ethiopia Shall Stretch Forth From America to Africa: The Pan-African Journeys of Charles S. Morris,” with Benedict Carton in Dorothy Hodgson and Judith Byfield eds. Global Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017) 
  • “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
  • Keshia Blain, "The Pragmatism of Black Nationalist Women's Global Politics," Journal of Civil and Human Rights 5, 1, 2019
  • Andrew Barnes, "Christianity, Industrial Education and the Black Atlantic," Journal of Southern African Studies, 45, 2, 2019
  • Adam Ewing, The Age of Garvey: How A Jamaican Activist Created a Mass Movement and Changed Global Politics” Black Scholar (Summer 2016, Vol. 46, No.2)
  • Carol Anderson, “Bourgeois Radicals: The NAACP and the Struggle for Colonial Liberation, 1941-1960” American Historical Review (January 2016 Vol. 121, Vol.1), 266-267
  • Brenda Gayle Plummer, “In Search of Power: African Americans in the Era of Decolonization, 1956-1974” American Historical Review 119, 3 (June 2014), 828-830.
  • Andrew Zimmerman, “Alabama in Africa: Booker T. Washington, the German Empire, and the Globalization of the New South” Labor: Studies in the Working-Class History of the Americas 8, 2 (Summer 2011)
  • 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)
  • James Meriwether, “Proudly We Can Be Africans: African Americans and Africa, 1935-61” International Journal of African Historical Studies 35, 2-3, 2002
  • 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
Administrative Positions

2014, 2010: Program Director, Cape Town Summer Abroad Program, The College of William and Mary

2010-2012: Co-chair, The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation, The College of William and Mary


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-
Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Associate Professor of History and Africana Studies, 2014-

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