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Dr. Matthew Delmont

Author of Black Quotidian and Half American

The origins and importance of Juneteenth
  • About Matthew Delmont

    Dr. Matthew Delmont is the author of Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African American Newspapers and the upcoming Half American: The Epic Story of African Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad (2022). Dr. Delmont was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement to showcase the historical value of the stories of both famous and ordinary Black Americans. The result, Black Quotidian, is an archive of digitized Black American newspapers that examines the everyday lives of Black Americans in the twentieth century. Black Quotidian won the American Studies Association’s Garfinkel Prize for its exceptional work at the intersection of American Studies and Digital Humanities. In his upcoming book, Half American, Dr. Delmont analyzes the history of Black Americans who fought bravely abroad in a segregated military during World War II, and returned home to battle white supremacy in America.

    Through his research, Dr. Delmont examines the history of racial platitudes– how Americans talk about race without doing anything about racism–that traces back to the World War II era, the importance of Black newspapers, which served as vital forerunners of today’s social media activism, and racist school policies and how they affect school segregation to this date. An engaging and eloquent historian, he has spoken with various Fortune 500 companies, universities, and civic groups on the history of racism in America, the current Black Lives Matter movement, and how to create a more equitable future.

    Dr. Delmont now is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor of History at Dartmouth College. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, The Atlantic, Washington Post, and NPR, among several other academic journals. Dr. Delmont graduated from Harvard University, and earned his Master’s and Ph.D. from Brown University. At Dartmouth College, he serves as an advisor to the President for faculty diversity. Prior to Dartmouth College, Dr. Delmont taught at Scripps College, where he was awarded 2011 Professor of the Year, and was the Director of the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. He was awarded with a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017 and a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Public Scholar Award in 2020.

  • Speaking Topics

    Why Asian American History Matters Today

    Over the past year, there has been an alarming increase in anti-Asian violence and bias, fueled by both political rhetoric and xenophobic stereotypes. The racism that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are encountering today has deep historical roots, as do the organized efforts by AAPI communities and allies to counter this hatred. Drawing on more than a decade of researching and teaching about race and racism in America, historian Matthew Delmont shows that it is impossible to understand American History without understanding Asian American History. This is a story of immigration and belonging that connects large scale issues—government policies, economic innovations, and wars—to the everyday histories of AAPI people, families, and communities who have shaped America for generations.

    From Civil Rights to #BlackLivesMatter

    More than 25 million Americans have participated in Black Lives Matter protests in every state in the country. Millions more people have joined protests globally. By most accounts, Black Lives Matter is the largest social movement in U.S. history. In this talk, award-winning historian Matthew Delmont explores the founding of Black Lives Matter and explains how today's movement continues the freedom struggles that civil rights activists waged in the 1950s and 1960s.

    The Past and Future of Black History Month

    Started nearly one-hundred years ago, Black History Month has changed how generations of Americans learn about the nation's past and has elevated figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman into the pantheon of American icons. Drawing on his award-winning digital book Black Quotidian, historian Matthew Delmont argues that the time is ripe for a fresh approach to Black History Month. He highlights hidden figures from Black history and explains why this history should be studied and celebrated not only in February but all year round.

    Half American: The Epic Story of Black Americans Fighting World War II at Home and Abroad

    For Black Americans World War II was about not only America’s standing in the world but also about how much actual freedom would exist in the United States. Black troops were at Normandy, Iwo Jima, and the Battle of the Bulge. They fought bravely in combat and they formed the backbone of the United States military’s supply effort, enabling the Allies to fight and win a global war. They did all of this while fighting in a segregated military. Black veterans returned from the war and kept fighting white supremacy at home, fueling the civil rights movement. Drawing on his upcoming book, historian Matthew Delmont explains how World War II raised questions regarding race and democracy that remain unanswered more than seventy years later. This is an inspiring history of bravery and patriotism in the face of unfathomable racism.

    Reckoning with School Segregation

    More than 65 years after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that racially separate schools are “inherently unequal,” school segregation is getting worse. The path toward a more racially just society requires Americans to reckon honestly with the policies and choices that have produced and maintained a profoundly unequal educational system. Drawing on his book Why Busing Failed, historian Matthew Delmont explains why school segregation has persisted and how parents, business leaders, and communities can chart a more equitable future.

  • Video

  • Praise for Matthew Delmont

    Praise for Black Quotidian

    Turning Black History Month on its head, Matthew Delmont insists that black life is not and cannot be limited to big events, past greats, or historical study in specified time slots. Distinctive and unique, Black Quotidian provides students an opportunity to examine the nuances and complexities of black life inside and outside the classroom.

    —Nishani Frazier, Miami University

    Bringing attention to the under-recognized significance of the black press and its impact on everyday black peoples' lives, Black Quotidian explores new territory for digital history and the public humanities.

    Kim Gallon, Purdue University

    Praise for Making Roots

    Delmont builds his narrative from extensive archival research. His ability to describe these findings in an engaging style keeps the pages turning. Dramatic episodes come alive.

    Publishers Weekly

    In Making 'Roots,' Matthew Delmont gives us a terrific and highly readable account of the making of Alex Haley’s book–cum–television miniseries, which had a major impact on television and on the ways Americans imagined slavery and its legacies. This is a hugely welcome study, both for its detailed look at the history of Roots and for its many smart insights about race, representation, and visual media.

    Gayle Wald, author of It's Been Beautiful: "Soul!" and Black Power Television

    In his absorbing, behind-the-scenes account of the making of Roots, Matthew F. Delmont not only narrates the personal odyssey Alex Haley took in discovering—and imagining—his ancestral epic for a mass audience in the 1970s but also reveals in fascinating detail the powerful mix of emotional and economic forces that led to the creation of one of the twentieth century’s most indelible—and debated—renderings of slavery. Popular culture’s roots run through Roots, and, in giving us his history of this touchstone, Delmont has produced a scholarly touchstone himself.

    Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University, and host of the PBS series Finding Your Roots

    Long before over-the-counter DNA testing and hashtag history lessons, Roots was the connective tissue between America’s racial past and its hopes for a post-racial future. Roots also gave rise to one of the seminal cultural moments of twentieth-century America, which Matthew Delmont deftly excavates and illuminates in Making 'Roots,' a must-read book that demands a re-evaluation of Roots and its conjuror, Alex Haley.

    Mark Anthony Neal, author of Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities

    For millions of Americans, Roots established a new way of thinking about race and ethnicity in and long after the 1970s. Making 'Roots' is a prodigiously researched and immensely compelling account of book and miniseries, of author and culture industry—the roots and branches of a genre-defying, commercially blockbusting brand of history writing.

    Eric Lott, The Graduate Center, City University of New York

    Few people read Alex Haley's Roots nowadays, and fewer still watch the twelve-hour television miniseries. But in its time, Roots touched the lives of millions of Americans, black and white, and transformed the national conversation on race. In Making 'Roots,' Matthew Delmont offers the definitive history of the Roots phenomenon, casting fresh light not only on the text and television series but also on a germinal moment in American cultural history.

    James T. Campbell, author of Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787–2005

    Praise for Why Busing Failed

    Meticulous and insightful. . . . Delmont’s critique is tough but fair.

    The Boston Globe

    In this important work, Matthew Delmont takes the biggest scapegoat for our failure to integrate our schools, and then systematically dismantles the story we thought we knew. Why Busing Failed dispels the all-too-convenient narrative about the disaster of busing as a tool for integration and instead shows that, as black activists noted decades ago, the problem was never the bus, it was us. Carefully researched and compellingly written, Why Busing Failed is an indictment of both politicians and mainstream news organizations that aided and abetted small numbers of white parents in shifting the national narrative of integration from a constitutional and moral imperative to an impossible inconvenience.

    Nikole Hannah-Jones, The New York Times Magazine

    By looking at the antibusing uprisings that were presented in mainstream media, this recommended narrative presents civil rights through the lens of media studies and offers an entirely new way of seeing how recent history was written.

    Library Journal

    Why Busing Failed is an ambitious and well-researched account of an important aspect of the struggle for racial and educational equality in the United States.

    Pacific Historical Review

    With Why Busing Failed Matthew Delmont dispels the conventional wisdom on segregation and its convenient narrative of Southern demagogues and Northern heroes. In these pages is a thoroughly chronicled, frustrating history that establishes segregation as a national system and demonstrates its tragic impact upon American education today. This book should be required reading.

    Jelani Cobb, author of The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress

    Matthew Delmont's brilliant study of 'busing' upends much of what we think we know about the media and the civil rights movement. If you want to understand where we are today in this country--and why school segregation is so ubiquitous and so accepted—read this book. 'Busing' didn't fail; our resolve to desegregate schools did. This may be the most important book you read this year.

    Jeanne Theoharis, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College and author of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks

    Delmont tells an eye-opening story of the struggle for school desegregation outside the South in the wake of the civil rights movement. The Southern campaign received at least moderately positive media coverage. But as Delmont reveals in this deeply researched and engagingly written history, the situation was very different in places like New York, Chicago, Pontiac, Michigan, and—most famously—Boston. Delmont shows how Northern anti-segregation activists were able to mobilize the 'busing' issue, along with the media strategies of the Southern civil rights movement, to generate sympathetic media treatment. This book provides a much-needed corrective to the enduring assumption that the American mass media were cheerleaders in the fight for racial equality in the 1960s and 70s.

    Aniko Bodroghkozy, author of Equal Time: Television and the Civil Rights Movement

    Praise for The Nicest Kids in Town

    Lively and perceptive. . . . Delmont’s book offers a subtle, refreshingly interdisciplinary reading of Bandstand as a site of the civil rights struggles in Philadelphia.

    Brian Ward, American Historical Review

    The Nicest Kids in Town counters the (false) mythology of American Bandstand with valuable descriptions of ‘forgotten’ cultural productions.

    Gayle Wald, George Washington University, Journal Of The Society For American Music (Jsam)

    The study illustrates how . . . nostalgic representations of the past . . . can work as impediments to progress in the present.

    Cbq Communication Booknotes Quarterly

    Excellent. . . . Offers a valuable understanding of the . . . melding of African Americans into the national youth culture.


    Well-researched, tightly-written. . . . Impressively bright, clear, and comprehensive.

    History News Network

    Reveals a hidden history of racial segregation on the United States' first television program centered on the teenage population. . . . Provocative.

    Orange County Register
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