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Crystal R. SandersAssociate Professor of African American Studies

Crystal R. Sanders is an award-winning historian of the United States in the twentieth century. Her research and teaching interests include African American History, Black Women's History, and the History of Black Education. She received her BA (cum laude) in History and Public Policy from Duke University and a Ph.D. in History from Northwestern University. Before coming to Emory, she was an Associate Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University.

Professor Sanders is the author of A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle, published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2016 as part of the John Hope Franklin Series in African American History and Culture. The book won the 2017 Critics Choice Award from the American Educational Research Association and the 2017 New Scholar’s Book Award from Division F of the American Educational Research Association. The book was also a finalist for the 2016 Hooks National Book Award. Professor Sanders’ work can also be found in many of the leading history journals, including the Journal of Southern History, the North Carolina Historical Review, and the Journal of African American History. She is currently writing a book on black southerners' efforts to secure graduate education during the age of Jim Crow.

Professor Sanders is the recipient of a host of fellowships and prizes. These honors include the C. Vann Woodward Prize from the Southern Historical Association, the Huggins-Quarles Award from the Organization of American Historians, an Andrew Mellon Graduate Fellowship in Humanistic Studies, a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Visiting Scholars Fellowship at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Anthony Kaye Fellowship at the National Humanities Center. In 2021, the American Historical Association awarded her its Equity Award.



  • A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi’s Black Freedom Struggle (University of North Carolina Press, 2016) 
  • “America’s Forgotten Migration: The Black Pursuit for Graduate Education During the Age of Jim Crow” (under contract with UNC Press) 


Book Chapters

  • “’In the Face of Her Splendid Record’: Willa Cofield Johnson and Teacher Dismissal in the Civil Rights Era,” in Schooling the Movement: The Activism of Southern Black Educators from Reconstruction through the Civil Rights Era, Derrick Aldridge and Jon Hale, eds., (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2023)


Journal Articles

  • “North Carolina Justice On Display:  Governor Bob Scott and the 1968 Benson Affair,” Journal of Southern History LXXIX (August 2013): 659-680.*
  • “Dignity in Life and Death: Undertaker Clarie Collins Harvey and Black Women’s Entrepreneurial Activism,” Journal of Mississippi History LXXVI (Fall/Winter 2014): 111-127. 
  • “Blue Water, Black Beach: The North Carolina Teachers Association and Hammocks Beach in the Age of Jim Crow,” North Carolina Historical Review XCII (April 2015): 145-164.
  • “More Than Cookies and Crayons: Head Start Programs and African American Empowerment in Mississippi, 1965-1968,” Journal of African American History 100 (Fall 2015): 586-609.
  • “Money Talks: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and the African American Freedom Struggle in Mississippi,” History of Education Quarterly (May 2016): 361-367.
  • “'Pursuing the Unfinished Business of Democracy': Willa B. Player and Liberal Arts Education in the Civil Rights Era,” North Carolina Historical Review XCVI (January 2019): 1-33.
  • “'We Very Much Prefer to Have a Colored Man in Charge': Booker T. Washington and Tuskegee’s All-Black Faculty,” Alabama Review 74, no. 2 (April 2021): 99-128.
  • “The First March on Raleigh: North Carolina College School of Law and the Fight for Educational Equality” North Carolina Historical Review XCIX (October 2022): 375-401.