UMass Boston


Director and Chair of the Trotter Advisory Board

Dr. Hettie V. Williams

Dr. Hettie Williams is the new director of the William Monroe Trotter Institute for the Study of Black Culture. Dr. Williams is a renowned scholar who comes to us from Monmouth University in New Jersey, where she served as a professor of African American History in the Department of History and Anthropology. Her research focuses on African American intellectual history, Black women’s history, and race/ethnic studies. Currently serving as the president of the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS), Dr. Williams is the author/editor of seven books and numerous essays, articles, and book chapters. She is an active leader in the production of digital humanities projects and has extensive experience engaging with local communities while making her scholarly contributions more widely accessible through the innovative use of social media and podcasts. Dr. Williams earned her Ph.D. in History and Culture from Drew University, an M.A. in History from Monmouth University, and a B.A. in History from Rowan University.

Full Bio

Coordinator of Social Science and Public Policy Research

Dr. Michael Johnson 

michael johnson

Michael P. Johnson is a professor in the Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston. His research addresses decision models for nonprofit organizations and government agencies. His primary application areas include affordable and assisted housing, community development, climate change response, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the decision sciences. Prof. Johnson has supervised multiple Trotter Institute projects since January 2022. He is past co-president of the UMass Boston Black Faculty Staff and Student Association. He is currently co-chair of the McCormack Graduate School Racial Equity Task Force and directs the Master in Public Administration program. He has authored and/or edited six books and journal volumes, and published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and conference proceedings. 

Coordinator of Public Programming 

Dr. Mickaella Perina

Mickaella L. Perina is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Her areas of research are political and legal philosophy, critical philosophy of race, Caribbean Philosophy, Aesthetics, and the philosophy of Human Rights. Her main research interests include liberal democracy theory and politics of exclusion; race, identity, and political membership; and remembering/forgetting with reference to public memory and counter-memories. She is the author of Citoyenneté et Sujétion aux Antilles Francophones, Post-Esclavage et Aspiration Démocratique, and numerous articles and book chapters. She is a co-organizer of the annual California Roundtable on Philosophy and Race and a Series editor for Africana Philosophy with Bloomsbury Introductions to World Philosophies.

William Trotter Institute’s Advisory Board 

The advisory board includes UMass Boston faculty, staff, students, and administrators, as well as members of community-based organizations. The transition committee had three primary tasks. The first was to lead the process of selecting a permanent director of the Trotter Institute, which it did with Dr. Hettie Williams. The second task is to lead the process of selecting a senior staff member to support grant-writing, communications, and collaboration with other CANALA centers and institutes (Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development and Public Policy; Institute for Asian American Studies; Institute for New England Native American Studies). The third task is to develop goals and action steps regarding the Trotter Institute’s scholarly agenda, staffing, governance, and community engagement. This institutional knowledge will support the successful onboarding of institute staff and the development of a full portfolio of activities.

Trotter Institute Advisory Board Members

The Trotter Institute advisory board is led by the director and includes members from the UMass faculty, staff, grad students, and community members.

  • Dr. Nada Ali, Faculty member
  • Arjun Collins, Malcolm X-Ella Collins House (MXECH), Community member
  • Dr. Pacey Foster, Faculty member
  • L’Merchie Frazier, Spoke Arts, Community member
  • Dr. Heidi Gengenbach, Faculty member
  • Dr. Phil Gona, Faculty member
  • Yvonne Gomes-Santos, Staff member
  • Dr. Michael Johnson, Faculty member
  • Nick Johnson, Graduate student member
  • Dr. Azizah J. Jor’dan, Faculty member
  • Dr. Nedra Lee, Faculty member
  • Atiya Martin, All Aces, Community member
  • Dr. Sung Park, Faculty member  
  • Dr. Denise Patmon, Faculty member
  • Dr. Mickaella Perina, Faculty member
  • Elizabeth Tiblanc, Embrace Boston, Community member

Faculty Associates and Research Fellows:

  • Jorge Capetillo-Ponce, Associate Professor of Sociology, UMass Boston
  • Richard (Chi-Kan) Hung, Assistant Professor of Human Services, UMass Boston
  • Marisol Negron, Assistant Professor of American Studies, UMass Boston
  • Aminah Pilgrim, Senior Lecturer II of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies, UMass Boston
  • Shirley Tang, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies, UMass Boston
  • Carolyn Wong, Research Associate, Institute for Asian American Studies, UMass Boston

Research Assistant: Nick Johnson

Editor of the Trotter Review

The Trotter Review is a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary academic journal that publishes articles, essays, and book reviews on topics related to the Black experience in Boston and Beyond with an editorial board of top-tier scholars. Dr. Hettie V. Williams serves as editor-in-chief of the journal and Dr. Adam Cilli is the current editor. This journal is currently published annually. 

Dr. Adam Cilli

Dr. Adam Lee Cilli is a historian of the 20th-century United States with a focus on civil rights and Black reform work.  He is the author of Canaan, Dim and Far: Black Reformers and the Pursuit of Citizenship in Pittsburgh, 1915-1945 (University of Georgia Press, 2021) and has also published articles in the Journal of Women's HistoryJournal of Urban HistoryPennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, and the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History.  Dr. Cilli serves as an assistant professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, where he teaches courses from general U.S. history surveys to upper-level seminars on the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Movement, and U.S. Women's History. 

Editorial Board of the Trotter Review

Nada Ali

Nada Mustafa Ali is a scholar who engages with questions about social change and transformation in Sudan and beyond through her teaching, research, and activism. Dr. Ali teaches in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department and is a core faculty in the Human Rights Minor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is an affiliate faculty in the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at the same university. Formerly, Dr. Ali taught at the New School University and Clark University. She held research fellowship or associate positions at the Five College Women's Studies Research Center, Fordham University, and the International Center for Research on Women. Dr. Ali’s teaching covers the areas of gender, intersectionality, critical development studies, human rights, and qualitative research. Dr. Ali’s current research focuses on three overlapping areas. She is working on a digital ethnography on women, social media, and activism in contemporary Sudan. Dr. Ali is also researching Gender, Militarization, and peace-building in Sudan and South Sudan; and Gender and HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and Africa. Dr. Ali has written and published extensively in Arabic and English. Her book Gender, Race and Sudan's Exile Politics: Do We All Belong to this Country? Was published by Lexington Books, (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield), in 2015. In addition to her academic career, Dr. Ali is an activist and policy specialist who has worked at or consulted for several UN agencies, (including UNDP, UNFPA, and UN Women) research institutes, and international, regional, and national civil society organizations. She is on the Advisory Board of the African Feminist Initiative. Dr. Ali received her PhD in Government (Development Studies) from Manchester University in the UK. She has a BA (Hon.) and an MA from the University of Khartoum and the American University in Cairo respectively. Both in political science.

Christopher Cameron

Christopher Cameron is Professor of History and Interim Chair of Africana Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He was the founding president of the African American Intellectual History Society. Cameron received his B.A. in History from Keene State College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in American History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research and teaching interests include early American history, the history of slavery and abolition, and African American religious and intellectual history. Cameron is the author of To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement (Kent State University Press, 2014) and Black Freethinkers: A History of African American Secularism (Northwestern University Press, 2019). Cameron is also the co-editor of Race, Religion, and Black Lives Matter: Essays on a Moment and a Movement (Vanderbilt University Press, 2021) and New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition (Northwestern University Press, 2018). Cameron has received fellowships from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the Peabody Essex Museum, Emory University, the U.S. Department of Education, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Council of Learned Societies. His current book project, entitled Liberal Religion and Race in America, explores the intersection of race and liberal religion dating back to the mid-18th century and the varied ways that liberal theology has informed African American religion and politics in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Grace Gipson

Grace Gipson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work focuses on Black future feminist/pop culture scholars whose research explores Black popular culture, digital humanities, representations of race and gender within comic books, Afrofuturism, and race and new media. Before joining the Department of African American Studies at VCU in 2020, Gipson served as a Frederick Douglass Institute (FDI) for African and African American Studies postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester and a visiting lecturer at Georgia State University. Her current book project seeks to explore Black female identities as personified in comics and fandom culture. A second project examines how online Black female academic and popular networks produce cultural and technical capital, which act as safe spaces that showcase, interrogate, and celebrate the blending of popular culture and the academy. Outside the classroom, you can find Gipson collecting comic books, ticket stubs to the latest movie, stamps on her international travel discoveries, participating as part of the #BlackComicsChat podcast crew, and giving back to the community through a myriad of projects and organizations. She received her PhD from the African American Studies Program at the University of California, Berkeley; an MA from the University of Georgia, and her BA from Clark Atlanta University.

Robert Greene

Robert Greene is an Assistant Professor of History. Dr. Greene received his Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Linguistics with a concentration in Creative Writing from Georgia Southern University; his Master of Arts in History from Georgia Southern University; and earned his Ph.D. in History from the University of South Carolina, Columbia. Dr. Greene recently completed his dissertation at the University of South Carolina, about the ways in which Democratic Party leaders in the South from 1964 to 1994 vied for the African American vote via appeals to Southern identity and memory of the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. Greene has published a book chapter in the collection Navigating Souths and has published a scholarly article in Patterns of Prejudice. He has also been published in several popular magazines and websites, including The Nation, Jacobin, Dissent, Scalawag, Current Affairs, and Jacobin. His research interests include African American history, American intellectual history since 1945, and Southern history since 1945. Dr. Greene is also a blogger and book review editor for the Society of U.S. Intellectual Historians and has just begun a six-post stint for the Teaching American History blog. 

Zebulon Vance Miletsky

Zebulon Vance Miletsky is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies. His new book Before Busing: A History of Boston’s Long Black Freedom Struggle was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2023. Dr. Miletsky is a historian specializing in recent African-American History, Civil Rights and Black Power, Urban History, Mixed-Race and Biracial identity, and Hip-Hop Studies. His research interests include African-Americans in Boston; Northern freedom movements outside of the South; Mixed race history in the U.S. and passing; and the Afro-Latin diaspora. He is the author of numerous articles, reviews, essays, and book chapters and is currently working on an edited volume on new directions in Boston African American History and school desegregation. He is also at work on his second monograph, a history of interracial marriage and racial passing in Boston and Massachusetts. Ph.D.; African-American Studies with a concentration in History, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2008.

Ben Railton

Ben Railton is a Professor of English and American Studies at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. He's the author of four books, most recently History and Hope in American Literature: Models of Critical Patriotism; writes the daily AmericanStudier blog; and contributes public scholarly writing and teaching in many settings.

Leslie M. Alexander

Leslie M. Alexander is the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor of History at Rutgers University and is a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University. A graduate of Stanford University (B.A. cum laude) and Cornell University (M.A. and Ph.D.), she is a specialist in early African American and African Diaspora history. She is the author of African or American?: Black Identity and Political Activism in New York City, 1784-1861 and Fear of a Black Republic: Haiti and the Birth of Black Internationalism in the United States, as well as the co-editor of three additional volumes, including Ideas in Unexpected Places: Reimagining the Boundaries of Black Intellectual History. Her current project, “How We Got Here: Slavery and the Making of the Modern Police State,” examines how surveillance of free and enslaved Black communities in the colonial and antebellum eras laid the foundation for modern-day policing. A portion of that research appears in The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story. A recipient of several prestigious fellowships, including the Ford Foundation Senior Fellowship, Alexander is the immediate Past President of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) and is an Executive Council member of the National Council for Black Studies (NCBS). She also serves on the Advisory Councils for the Journal of African American History, Black Perspectives, and The Black Scholar. Most recently, she was elected to the Montpelier Foundation Board, which seeks to create an inclusive history of President James Madison’s former plantation. During her career, she has won several significant awards, including the coveted University Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching at The Ohio State University. 

Joseph N. Cooper

Joseph N. Cooper is the inaugural Dr. J. Keith Motley Endowed Chair of Sports Leadership and Administration at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston. Prior to UMass Boston, Cooper served as an associate professor at the University of Connecticut (UConn) in the Sport Management program in the Department of Educational Leadership and Neag School of Education. Cooper earned his undergraduate degrees in Sociology and Recreation Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), master's degree in Sports Administration in the Department of Exercise and Sport Science from UNC-CH, and a doctorate in Kinesiology with a concentration in Sport Management and Policy from the University of Georgia (Athens, GA). His research agenda focuses on the intersection between sport, education, race, and culture with an emphasis on sports involvement as a catalyst for holistic development. He is also the faculty founder of Collective Uplift (CU), an organization designed to educate, empower, inspire, and support individuals to maximize their holistic potential both within and beyond athletic contexts. He has presented research at international, national, and regional conferences and published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, edited books, and op-ed contributions. As a result of his research, he has been cited in various media outlets including the New York Times, Boston Globe, ESPN, Le Monde, ABC News, Yahoo, and Diverse Issues in Higher Education. He is the author of From Exploitation Back to Empowerment: Black Male Holistic (Under)Development Through Sport and (Mis)Education (Peter Lang).

Tanya Katerí Hernández 

Tanya Katerí Hernández is the Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, where she teaches Anti-Discrimination Law, Comparative Employment Discrimination, Critical Race Theory, The Science of Implicit Bias and the Law: New Pathways to Social Justice, and Trusts & Wills. She received her A.B. from Brown University, and her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she served as Note Topics Editor of the Yale Law Journal. Professor Hernández is an internationally recognized comparative race law expert and Fulbright Scholar who has visited at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, in Paris and the University of the West Indies Law School, in Trinidad. She has previously served as a Law and Public Policy Affairs Fellow at Princeton University, a Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Research on Women at Rutgers University; a Faculty Fellow at the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, and as a Scholar in Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Professor Hernández is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, the American Law Institute, and the Academia Puertorriqueña de Jurisprudencia y Legislación. Hispanic Business Magazine selected her as one of its annual 100 Most Influential Hispanics. Professor Hernández serves on the editorial boards of the Revista Brasileira de Direito e Justiça/Brazilian Journal of Law and Justice, and the Latino Studies Journal published by Palgrave-Macmillian Press.

Dr. Denise Patmon

Dr. Denise Patmon has been at UMass Boston since 1995 when she joined as a faculty member in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education and Human Development. Since then, she has been immersed in activities and initiatives focused on the support and development of educators. She is highly regarded as an exemplary mentor, one who gives unstintingly to ensure that faculty can work productively toward fulfilling their aspirations. Within the deep well of her experience are positions she has held as department chair; interim director, co-director, and then director of the Center for Innovative Teaching (CIT, formerly known as the Center for the Improvement of Teaching) from 2008-2015, in which she facilitated many semester-long CIT seminars for pre-tenure and tenured faculty; Graduate Program Director for the Boston Writing Project’s Teaching Writing Certificate Program, and co-facilitator of Junior Faculty Research Seminars since 2020-21.  Currently, she is the Chair of the Leadership in the Education Department at her college. Since the early years of her career, she has displayed a deep commitment to supporting and mentoring educators; this focus brought Dr. Patmon the invitation to be a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Maine’s College of Education and Human Development from 2011-2013. Dr. Patmon has served on the Board of Directors for several institutions and corporations locally and nationally. She has been the recipient of several Teacher of the Year awards from various institutions. Pedagogy is her passion. Dr. Patmon’s research and teaching interests span the preparation of K-12 teachers for an anti-racist urban public-school context; the experiences and historical contributions of Black Bostonians; and the preparation of teachers (in-service and pre-service) to teach writing (grades p-16). She was a major contributor to the CANALA Institute BPS Ethnic Studies curriculum and teacher preparation work for the Trotter Institute, representing Black Boston's diverse history and perspectives. She is a contributing author to Jim Gray’s seminal text, Teachers at the Center. One of her most enduring publications is entitled, “Pedagogy for the Professoriate: The Personal Meets the Political” in the edited text Transforming Classroom Culture: Inclusive Pedagogical Practices, by Dallalfar, Kingston-Mann, and Sieber. She was the recipient of the James Bradford Ames Research Scholar Award at UMass Boston. She has lectured and presented her research at professional conferences and universities in diverse settings throughout the U.S. and in countries in South America, South Africa, Asia, and Europe. In addition to her many academic publications, she is the author of two children’s books. She is a pianist and violist and plays the Japanese koto.

Elizabeth Tiblanc

Elizabeth Tiblanc is the Vice President of Arts & Culture at Embrace Boston, who brings her training and practice in visual arts, education, and policy to the work for a more equitable Boston.  She holds a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and a MEd in Education Policy and Leadership from American University. While working as an artist educator for Boston Public Schools, she collaborated with school communities to develop programming that places arts and culture representative of students’ racial diversity at the center of education. She is dedicated to shifting cultural norms of oppression penetrating communities across generations and believes teaching and learning are acts of resistance and social intervention. She is the founder of PRIETA (Providing Resources, Inspiration and Excellence Through Art) Inc. She is a proud wife and mother and finds joy in cooking and feeding others as an act of love.

Editors of Resilience

Resilience is our public policy series and it is edited by:

Dr. Michael Johnson

Dr. Denise Patmon

Trotter Gazette Editor

The Trotter Gazette is our annual newsletter edited by our graduate student Nick Johnson.

Nick Johnson

Nick Johnson is a doctoral candidate in the Global Inclusion and Social Development program. His dissertation is focused on researching the political ecologies of Indigenous & African Diaspora communities, and their correlation to collective self-determination. Nick’s praxis for racial equity work is rooted in his ongoing as a restorative justice facilitator. He is the founder of Culturally Rooted Reformations, partners with others on racial equity, ecological, and relational projects, and is a board member of the Boston-based non-profit Voices For Liberation.