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Arna Bontemps

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Professor Emeritus

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

Research Interests: 

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.

  • Arna Bontemps. Seeing Slavery: How paintings make words look different. Common-Place, An Interactive Journal of Early American Life (2001).
  • Bontemps, Arna Alexander. The Punished Self: Surviving Slavery in the Colonial South. (2001).
  • . . Black Feminist Cultural Criticism (2001).
Fall 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
AFR 492Honors Directed Study
AFR 493Honors Thesis
AFR 498Pro-Seminar
AFR 499Individualized Instruction
  • Bontemps, Arna. The State of Black Studies in America, an Historical Overview. African Studies Seminar (Dec 2006).
  • Bontemps, Arna. Recent Historiography of Antislavery and Abolitionist Historical Literature. Slavery and Antislavery: New Research and Teaching Workshop (Oct 2006).
  • Bontemps, Arna. A Legacy Reconsidered: The Essays of Arna Bontemps. 2004 Arna Bontemps Symposium and Celebration (Oct 2004).
  • Bontemps, Arna. Slavery and the American Revolution: The State of the Field. OAH Annual Meeting (Mar 2004).
  • Bontemps, Arna. Visual Representations of African and African American Slaves in Colonial and Early National America. Committee for African American Research (CAAR) (Feb 2002).
  • Bontemps, Arna, Bontemps, Arna. Objects and Agents: Enslavement as a Psychological Battleground. Slavery/Diaspora Project Scholars' Meeting (Nov 2001).
  • Bontemps, Arna, Stewart, Roberta. Trimalchio and Christopher McPherson: A Comparative Approach. International Centre for the History of Slavery (Sep 2001).
  • Bontemps, Arna. Sources/Methodologies for Recovering Women's Voices. Atlantic Crossings: Women's Voices, Women's Stories from the Caribbean and the Nigerian Hinterland (May 2001).
  • Bontemps, Arna. The African Diaspora in African American History Prior to Reconstruction. Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora Second Bi-Annual Conference
  • AAAS Search Committee for a specialist in the Global African Diaspora, Chair (2004 - Present)
  • AAAS Curriculum Committee AAAS Personal Committee SST Advisory Committee, Member (2010 - 2010)
  • SST Search Committee represented AAAS on the School’s first search as a School, a School-wide search, Member (2009 - 2009)
  • AAAS Curriculum Committee, Member (2009 - 2009)
  • AAAS Personal Committee, Member (2009 - 2009)
  • SST Advisory Committee, Member (2009 - 2009)
  • SST Vision/Mission/Name Working Group, Member (2009 - 2009)
  • AAAS Curriculum Committee, Chair (2008 - 2008)
  • AAAS Seven Year Review Committee, Chair (2008 - 2008)
  • Academic program review committee, Chair (2006 - 2006)
  • Curriculum committee, Member (2006 - 2006)
  • Graduate studies committee, Member (2006 - 2006)
  • Personnel committee, Member (2006 - 2006)
  • Curriculum committee, Chair (2006 - 2006)
  • Personnel committee, Chair (2006 - 2006)
  • Bylaws Committee, Chair (2004 - 2005)
  • Curriculum Committee, African and African American Studies, Member (2004 - 2005)
  • Search Committee, Chair (2004 - 2005)
  • Curriculum Committee, Member (2004)
  • Personnel Committee, Member (2004)
  • Search Committee, Member (2003 - 2004)
  • Curriculum Committee, African and African American Studies, Member (2003)
  • Student Resource Center, African and African American Studies, Organizer and director (2003)