Commonwealth Journal

A Production of WUMB and the University of Massachusetts Boston

Faculty & Staff

photo of Barbara Lewis

Barbara Lewis, PhD

  • Host, Commonwealth Journal Associate Professor of English, College of Liberal Arts; Director, William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black History and Culture
  • Telephone: 617.287.5880
  • Office Location: Trotter Institute, Healey Library, 10th Floor

Areas of Expertise

Theater, Politics and Performance, Francophone Literature, Cultural History


PhD, Theatre, City University of New York

Professional Publications & Contributions

Additional Information

Barbara Lewis is the director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black History and Culture at UMass Boston, where she is an associate professor of English. As a theatre historian, she has published on lynching and performance, blackface minstrelsy, the Harlem Renaissance, August Wilson, and the black arts movement of the sixties with an emphasis on gender. As a Francophone scholar, she co-translated Faulkner, Mississippi by Edouard Glissant, which was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux (1999). From 2000 to 2002, she edited the journal Black Renaissance/ Renaissance Noire, published by the Institute of Afro-American Affairs at New York University.

For more than fifteen years, Lewis covered the arts scene in New York, writing reviews and celebrity interviews for Essence, the Amsterdam News, the Soho Weekly News, and Ms. Magazine. Today, she is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious New Federal Theatre in New York, led by Woodie King Jr., a world-renowned stage producer who helped launch the career of Ntozake Shange, author of for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf. New Federal Theatre's mission to integrate minorities and women into the mainstream of American theatre is one of Lewis's lifelong passions. Further, she is especially interested in a larger recognition of the political import of the theatre, which brings people together into dialogue and discovery of a truth beyond the strictly personal.

Lewis earned her doctorate in theatre at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She has taught at City College, Lehman, and New York University. Prior to being named director of the Trotter Institute, she was chair of the Department of Theatre at the University of Kentucky. Lewis is also one of the hosts of Commonwealth Journal and has appeared on New England Cable News, WGBH-TV's Basic Black, and other media outlets.