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Dr. Erica Armstrong Dunbar


DR. ERICA ARMSTRONG DUNBAR is the Charles and Mary Beard Professor of History at Rutgers University. Her publications, teaching, and documentary appearances have placed her among a small number of African American women scholars who study black life, culture, and gender up to the Civil War. Dunbar received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in History and African American Studies and her Ph.D. in History from Columbia University.

Dunbar’s first book, A Fragile Freedom: African American Women and Emancipation in the Antebellum City was published by Yale University in 2008, and it is widely used in college and graduate classrooms across the country. Her newest book, Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, is a startling and eye-opening look into America’s First Family. Never Caught is the powerful narrative of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s runaway slave who risked it all to escape the nation’s capital and reach freedom. Never Caught was named as a 2017 non-fiction finalist for the National Book Award and it was also named a finalist for the prestigious Frederick Douglass Book Prize. The Middle-Grade Reader of Never Caught will publish in January 2019.

In addition to her monographs, Dunbar has published peer-reviewed essays that have appeared in collections by Yale and NYU Press, has co-edited a special issue of Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and has penned numerous book reviews and encyclopedia entries. She serves on the editorial board for the Race in the Atlantic World series (UGA Press), the Journal of African American History, and was selected as a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians. From 2011-2018, Dunbar made history by becoming the inaugural Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia, the nation’s first library and one of its oldest cultural institutions.

With her recent op-eds and articles in outlets such as the New York Times, The Nation, TIME, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Dunbar has built a name for herself outside of the academy. Her expertise is in high demand from scholarly communities and media outlets such as CNN, The Nation, and the LA Times. She has appeared in numerous documentaries such as several episodes of “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” as well as “The Abolitionists” an American Experience production on PBS.