Arna Bontemps is an Emeritus Professor of African and African American studies in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. He received his doctorate in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1989. His major fields of concentration at Illinois were African American and Colonial American history, with minor concentrations in the national period of American history, and Latin American history. He first began teaching African American history at the university level as early as 1973 at Grinnell College (Iowa), but he has been doing so continuously since the late-1980s when he began teaching at Hampton University in Virginia and throughout the 1990s at Dartmouth College.
Although Bontemps' teaching is partly driven by research concerns, most of his courses are broadly conceived, examining social, cultural, and political movements, as well as the intellectual concerns of people of African descent in America, beginning in Africa with the history of the Atlantic slave trade and continuing into the present. Although rooted in the discipline of history most of his courses are interdisciplinary in approach and perspective. Each academic year he teaches one or both parts of the African American survey course, both parts of which examine the experiences, struggles, and creativity of black people in the United States from their African origins to the present. Lectures and readings explore how an increasingly diverse and always complicated black community resisted oppression, struggled for power, dealt with internal tensions, conflicts, and differences, and profoundly shaped American culture.
Bontemps also teaches undergraduate lecture courses, such as: Recent African American History, 1945-Present; African American Intellectual History with primary emphasis on the Twentieth Century, and African American Cultural History: The Harlem Renaissance. The last course listed uses the Harlem Renaissance as a focus for examining African American cultural history from the post-Reconstruction era (late 19th century) to the onset of the Second World War. He is currently developing an online course "The Virtual History of Slavery in America," that utilizes visual images of slaves and slavery – images created during the period of slavery in America – to illustrate that formative period in African American History. He also teaches a course on the Atlantic Slave Trade, and another new course that has not yet been scheduled, Slave Culture: African American Cultural History, 1619-1877.
Ph.D. History, University of Illinois-Urbana 1989
Bontemps' primary research interests have focused on U.S. and African American history, including the history of slavery in America, with a special emphasis on the colonial and early national periods, and on African American cultural and intellectual history both during slavery and since emancipation.