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Annual Lecture 2022: Democracy, Voting Rights and Black Women as the Vanguard

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Bahá'í Chair for World Peace Annual Lecture 2022

Democracy, Voting Rights and Black Women as the Vanguard

Professor Martha S. Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University.

September 13, 2022

1pm - 2.30pm

Virtual Event: Register at -

At the core of democracy in the United States is a long debate over voting rights. Martin Luther King, Jr. echoed abolitionist Theodore Parker when he adopted the metaphor of the arc, as in "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Barack Obama, borrowing from the U.S. Constitution, anticipated progress for a nation that was on "the path to a more perfect union." What these framings elide is how, across our past as a nearly 250-year-old nation, debate rather than progress has best characterized American democracy. Contests over voting rights troubled the United States from its very start. And, today this foundational facet of our democracy continues to generate debate—and change—in our own time. Black women's leadership on the right to vote reveals how contests over the character of the body politic have challenged every generation. History strongly suggests that our future will include much more of the same.

Speaker Bio:

Professor Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, and a Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University. She is a legal and cultural historian whose work examines how black Americans have shaped the story of American democracy. Professor Jones is the author of Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (2020), selected as one of Time'S 100 must-read books for 2020. Her 2018 book, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America (2018), was winner of the Organization of American Historians Liberty Legacy Award (best book in civil rights history), the American Historical Association Littleton-Griswold Prize (best book in American legal history), the American Society for Legal History John Phillip Reid book award (best book in Anglo-American legal history) and the Baltimore City Historical Society Scholars honor for 2020. Professor Jones is also author of All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture 1830-1900 (2007) and a coeditor of Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (University of North Carolina Press (2015), together with many articles and essay.

Professor Jones is a public historian, writing for broader audiences at the New York Times, Washington Post, the Atlantic, USA Today, Public Books, Talking Points Memo, Politico, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Time. She is an exhibition curator for “Reframing the Color Line” and “Proclaiming Emancipation” at the William L. Clements Library, and an expert consultant for museum, film and video productions with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, the Charles Wright Museum of African American History, PBS American Experience, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Netflix, and Arte (France.)

Professor Jones holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and a J.D. from the CUNY School of Law which bestowed upon her the degree of Doctor of Laws honoris causa in 2019. Prior to her academic career, she was a public interest litigator in New York City, recognized for her work as a Charles H. Revson Fellow on the Future of the City of New York at Columbia University. Professor Jones is an immediate past co-president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and today serves on the boards of the Society of American Historians, the National Women's History Museum, the US Capitol Historical Society, the Johns Hopkins University Press, the Journal of African American History and Slavery & Abolition.

This event is co-sponsored by ABRI and Critical Race Initiative


This event will be held online.

You can register in advance using the zoom link provided.


Baha'i Chair for World Peace

For disability accommodations, please contact Kate Seaman at

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