Jonathan Fenderson

Jonathan Fenderson

​Assistant Professor of African and African-American Studies
PhD, University of Massachusetts
research interests:
  • Africana Studies (African/African American/African Diaspora Studies)
  • Twentieth Century African American History
  • Black Intellectual History and
  • African American Social Movements
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    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • CB 1109
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Jonathan Fenderson's research and teaching interests emanate from three themes: intellectual history, social movements, and transnational links between Africa and the Diaspora. 

    Jonathan Fenderson is an Assistant Professor in African and African American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, which he first joined as a postdoctoral fellow in 2011. He earned his PhD in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts. His research and teaching interests emanate from three themes: intellectual history, social movements, and transnational links between Africa and the Diaspora. 

    His writing has appeared in a number of places, including the Journal of African American History, Race & Class, and the Journal of African-American Studies. His first book, Building the Black Arts Movement: Hoyt Fuller and the Cultural Politics of the 1960s will be released by University of Illinois Press in April 2019. 

    He teaches several courses in African and African American Studies. The most popular courses include: "Feminist Fire: Radical Black Women in the 20th Century,” “International Dimensions of the Black Power Movement,” and “Black Political Thought." 

    He also serves as the Associate Editor of the Black Scholar.

    selected courses

    Feminist Fire: Radical Black Women in the 20th Century

    Black women have been at the forefront of the Black radical tradition since its inception. Often marginalized in both the scholarship and popular memory, there exist a long unbroken chain of women who have organized around the principles of anti-sexism, anti-racism, and anti-capitalism. Frequently critical of heterosexist projects as well, these women have been the primary force driving the segment of the Black radical tradition that is commonly referred to as Black Feminism. Remaining cognizant of the fact that Black Feminist thought has also flourished as an academic enterprise-complete with its own theoretical interventions (ie. standpoint theory, intersectionality, dissemblance, etc.) and competing scholarly agendas-this course will think through the project of Black Feminism as a social movement driven by activism and vigorous political action for social change. Focusing on grassroots efforts at organizing, movement building, consciousness raising, policy reform, and political mobilization, Feminist Fire will center Black Feminists who explicitly embraced a critical posture towards capitalism as an untenable social order. We will prioritize the life and thought of 20th century women like Claudia Jones, Queen Mother Audley Moore, Frances Beal, Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis and organizations like the Combahee River Collective, Chicago's Black Women's Committee, and the Third World Women's Alliance. At its core, the course aims to bring the social movement history back into the discourse around Black Feminism.

      Black Power Across Africa & the Diaspora: International Dimensions of the Black Power Movement

      This seminar explores the Black Power Movement as an international phenomenon. By situating Black Power within an African World context, this course will examine the advent and intersections of Black Power politics in the United States, parts of Africa (including Ghana, Algeria, Nigeria and Tanzania), the Caribbean (Jamaica, Bermuda, the Bahamas and Cuba), South America (Brazil) and Canada. Particular emphasis will be placed upon unique and contested definitions of "Black Power" as it was articulated, constructed and enacted in each region.

        Topics in African-American Studies: Black Political Thought

        Newscasters, pundits, pollsters, analysts and even politicians often think of African Americans as a monolithic population, held together by a uniform set of beliefs that run steady across the entire community. However, this simply is not the case. When it comes to politics and political thought, African Americans, and those who make up the Black population in the United States, exhibit a broad range of intra-racial diversity. Manifested along the fault lines of class, gender, age, ideology, and a number of other factors, the complexity of Black political thought is built upon the structure of both African American communities and the larger American political landscape. This course will explore the contours of Black political thought in the United States, while paying close attention to various ideologies, pivotal historical moments and major debates shaping the course of African-American political life.

          Building the Black Arts Movement: Hoyt Fuller and the Cultural Politics of the 1960s

          Building the Black Arts Movement: Hoyt Fuller and the Cultural Politics of the 1960s

          As both an activist and the dynamic editor of Negro Digest, Hoyt Fuller stood at the nexus of the Black Arts Movement and the broader cultural politics of his time. Building the Black Arts Movement uses historical snapshots of Fuller's life and achievements to rethink the period and establish Fuller's important role in laying the foundation for the movement. In telling Hoyt Fuller's story, Fenderson provides provocative new insights into the movement's international dimensions, the ways the movement took shape at the local level, the impact of race and other factors, and the challenges--corporate, political, and personal--that Fuller and others faced in trying to build black institutions. 

          An innovative study that approaches the movement from a historical perspective, Building the Black Arts Movement is a much-needed reassessment of the trajectory of African American culture over two explosive decades.