Vanderbilt University Lands Several Big Names in Black Studies

Houston A. Baker, Susan Fox Beischer and George D. Beischer Professor of English and Professor of African and African American studies at Duke University, is leaving Durham to take an endowed chair at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Professor Baker, one of the nation’s leading authorities on African-American literature, has been highly critical of the way the Duke administration has handled the allegations of rape brought by a black woman against three white members of the Duke lacrosse team. However, it has been reported that the negotiation to bring Professor Baker to Vanderbilt was well under way before the alleged rape occurred.

Joining Professor Baker at Vanderbilt will be his wife Charlotte Pierce-Baker, a celebrated scholar in women’s studies who also taught at Duke. The Bakers were personally recruited to come to Vanderbilt by Chancellor Gordon Gee.

The Bakers told JBHE that they are excited about their new positions and were attracted to Nashville in part because it is closer to where their son and grandchildren live.

Vanderbilt also has hired Hortense Spillers to an endowed professorship. Spillers, a very highly regarded scholar in the field of black literary studies, was Frederick J. Whiton Professor of English at Cornell University. Her latest book is Black, White, and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture.

Vanderbilt has made two additional hires to further beef up its black studies program. Alice Randall, author of the widely acclaimed parody novel of Gone With the Wind entitled The Wind Done Gone, will be awarded the title of “writer in residence” at Vanderbilt. Ifeoma K. Nwankwo, an associate professor of English and African-American studies at the University of Michigan, will also join the Vanderbilt faculty. He is the author of Black Cosmopolitanism: Racial Consciousness and Transnational Identity in the Nineteenth-Century Americas.