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Walter C. RuckerProfessor of African American Studies and History Director of Graduate StudiesCo-Chair, "Visions of Slavery" Mellon Sawyer Seminar

Originally from Decatur, Walter C. Rucker—Professor of African American Studies and History—earned his BA from Morehouse College and his MA and PhD from the University of California-Riverside. Before his arrival at Emory, he was Professor of History at Rutgers University.

He is a specialist in early Atlantic African diaspora and African American history. As an ethnohistorian, Professor Rucker’s teaching and research focus on the generative nexus between slavery, resistance, and ritual cultures in the Black Atlantic. The former Treasurer (2015-2019) and Vice-President (2019-2021) of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD), he has received several awards and distinctions for research, teaching, mentoring, and professional service including the Recognition for Excellent Teaching (Phi Beta Kappa Society, 2021), the Presidential Award for Distinguished Service (ASWAD, 2017), the Order of Omega Recognition for Outstanding Faculty (Ohio State, 2010), the Ida B. Wells & Cheikh Anta Diop Award for Outstanding Scholarship & Leadership in Africana Studies (NCBS, 2008), the Lawrence Williamson Black Graduate & Professional Student Caucus Service & Mentoring Award (Ohio State, 2007), and the Edgerton Award for Excellence in Research & Teaching (University of Nebraska, 2003). Professor Rucker’s research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Edgerton Family Foundation, and the Layman Trust.

His first book, The River Flows On: Black Resistance, Culture, and Identity Formation in Early America (2005), tracks diasporic African identity formation through examinations of resistance efforts in colonial British North America and the antebellum U.S. His second book, Gold Coast Diasporas: Identity, Culture, and Power (2015), analyzes the origin and reinvention of “Coromantee” and “(A)mina” as neo-African ethnicities in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century circum-Caribbean. The book assesses the socio-political scripts, cultural technologies, and public performances fashioned by enslaved Gold Coast Africans as part of an emerging and non-Western abolitionist discourse.

In addition to the two books, Professor Rucker has published a range of essays, book chapters, and journal articles appearing in the Journal of Negro History (and the Journal of African American History), the Journal of Black Studies, and Black Scholar as well as two co-edited encyclopedia projects—The Encyclopedia of American Race Riots (Greenwood Press, 2006) and The Encyclopedia of African American History (ABC-CLIO, 2010). He is currently working on two new book projects: “The Birth of a Notion: A Century of Racial Violence and Mass Incarceration in America” and a multi-authored textbook entitled "Culture & Resistance: A Diasporic History of African Americans."


  • Introduction to African American Studies
  • The History of African Americans to 1865
  • The History of African Americans since 1865
  • The African Diaspora in the Americas
  • Black Atlantic Crosscurrents
  • What Do You Know about Africa? (First-Year Seminar)
  • The Black Atlantic (Graduate Seminar)
  • Anti-Black Racism, Violence, and Mass Incarceration in the U.S. (Graduate Seminar)

Selected Publications


  • Gold Coast Diasporas: Identity, Culture, and Power. Blacks in the Diaspora Series. (Indiana University Press, 2015).
  • The Encyclopedia of African American History, 3 vols. (ABC-CLIO Press, 2010).
  • The Encyclopedia of American Race Riots, 2 vols. Milestones in African American History Series (Greenwood Press, 2006).
  • The River Flows On: Black Resistance, Culture, and Identity Formation in Early America. Antislavery, Abolition, and the Atlantic World Series. (Louisiana State University Press, 2005).

Refereed Articles/Chapters

  • “‘Our Danger is Great and Certain’: Gabriel’s Conspiracy and the Louisiana Purchase,” Journal of African American History (2023): 1-22.
  • “Ideological and Technological Exchanges in the Early Modern Atlantic,” in Martin Klein, ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and the Diaspora (Oxford University Press, 2022).
  • “African Identity in Early America: August 20, 1729 to August 19, 1734,” in Ibram Kendi and Keisha Blain, eds., 400 Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 (One World Press, 2021).
  • “American Slavery and Resistance,” in Aaron Astor and Thomas Buchanan, eds., Slavery and the United States: An Historiographical Approach (Kent State University Press, 2021).
  • “Religion in the Black Atlantic and the African Diaspora,” in John Corrigan, ed., The Oxford Encyclopedia of Religion in America (Oxford University Press, 2018).
  • “‘Earth from a Dead Negro’s Grave’: Ritual Technologies and Mortuary Realms in the Eighteenth-Century Gold Coast Diaspora,” in Rebecca Shumway and Trevor Getz, eds., Slavery and Its Legacy in Ghana and the Diaspora (Bloomsbury, 2017).
  • “‘Only Draw in Your Countrymen’: Akan Culture and Community in Colonial New York City,” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History (2010): 76-118.
  • “Unpopular Sovereignty: African American Reactions and Resistance to the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act,” in John Wunder and Joann Ross, eds., Nebraska and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 (University of Nebraska Press, 2008).
  • “From Black Nadir to Brown v. Board: Empowerment and Education in Black Georgian Communities, 1865-1954,” (with Sabriya Jubilee) Negro Educational Review (2007), 151-168.
  • “Crusader in Exile: Robert F. Williams and the Internationalized Struggle for Black Freedom in America,” Black Scholar (2006), 19-34.
  • “African Americans and an Atlantic World Culture” in Alton Hornsby, Jr., ed., The Blackwell Companion to African American History (Blackwell Publishers, 2005).
  • “The African and European Slave Trades,” in Alton Hornsby, Jr., ed., The Blackwell Companion to African American History (Blackwell Publishers, 2005).
  • “‘A Negro Nation within the Nation’: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Creation of a Revolutionary Pan-Africanist Tradition,” Black Scholar (2002), 37-46.
  • “Conjure, Magic, and Power: The Influence of Afro-Atlantic Religious Practices on Slave Resistance and Rebellion,” Journal of Black Studies (2001), 85-104.
  • “‘I Will Gather All Nations’: Resistance, Culture, and Pan-African Collaboration in Denmark Vesey’s South Carolina,” Journal of Negro History (2001), 132-147.

Recent Work & Recognitions

  • Director of Graduate Studies, AAS, 2022-Present
  • Member, Laney Graduate School Executive Council, 2022-Present
  • Member, College Board AP African American Studies Development Committee, 2022-Present
  • Recognition for Excellent Teaching, Phi Beta Kappa Society, Gamma Chapter, 2021
  • Co-PI, Sawyer Seminar Grant ($225,000), Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 2021-23
  • Chair, AAS PhD Program Committee, 2021-22
  • Chair, AAS PhD Program Proposal Committee, 2019-21
  • Vice President, Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, 2019-21

Graduate Students

Marlene H. Gaynair, Assistant Professor of History, Washington State University. Dissertation: “Islands in the North: (Re)Creating Jamaican Identities & Cultures in Urban North America,” (Rutgers, History PhD Program, 2021).