Barbara Ransby grew up in Detroit in the 1960s and 70s. She is an historian, writer, and longtime activist. She is currently a Liberal Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she previously served as Director of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program. She currently directs the campus-wide Social Justice Initiative, which foregrounds the university’s public urban mission by linking with community partners around social justice projects. Professor Ransby is author of the highly acclaimed biography, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (University of North Carolina Press, 2003), which received eight national awards and recognitions including: the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize from the American Historical Association; the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians; and it was co-winner of the Liberty Legacy Foundation Award from the Organization of American Historians. Her most recent book is Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson (Yale University Press, 2013). She is completing a book for University of California Press as a part of the American Studies Now series, entitled: Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the 21st Century.
Barbara is also the second Editor-in-Chief of Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society. In 2015-2016 she was the principal investigator for an Andrew Mellon Foundation Sawyer Seminar project entitled “Geographies of Justice,” which convened scholars working on education, prisons, and wealth disparity in Palestine, South Africa and the United States.
Barbara serves on a number of advisory boards, including the London-based journal, Race and Class and is a part of the Advisory Editorial Group for the University of North Carolina book series, Justice, Power and Politics. She will join Bill Fletcher Jr. as co-editor of a Verso book series on the Black Radical Tradition this year. Dr. Ransby is also the co-convener of the National Reparations in Higher Education Working Group, and serves on the Advisory Board of Imagining America. Her popular writings have appeared in Colorlines, Dissent, In These Times, The Boston Review, The Jacobin, The New York Times and many other publications. She is currently completing a book on the Black Lives Matter Movement, which will be published in 2017 by University of California Press. She is the newly elected President of the National Women’s Studies Association (2016 – 2018). In 2017 Prof. Ransby was named one of the top 25 women in higher education by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine.
In terms of her political activity and community engagement, Barbara was active in the anti-Apartheid student solidarity movement in the 1980s, she co-founded African American Women in Defense of Ourselves (AAWIDOO) in 1991, and later worked with the Black Radical Congress in 1998. She currently supports the Movement for Black Lives and works with the R3 (Resist. Reimagine. Rebuild.) Coalition in Chicago. She serves on the board of the Woods Fund of Chicago which funds organizations working on issues of poverty and racial equity.