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Fordham Faculty Members

Mark Naison

Dr. Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History at Fordham University, is the author of seven books and over 300 articles on African American politics, labor history, popular culture and education policy. His first book, Communists in Harlem in the Depression, published in 1983, is still in print, and is used in undergraduate and graduate courses around the nation.

He recently published a novel, Pure Bronx, co-written with his former student Melissa Castillo-Garsow, and a book of essays on educational policy and Bronx history, Badass Teachers Unite.

His seventh book, published by Fordham University Press in September 2016, is Before the Fires, An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930’s to the 1960’s. This book is one of the featured readings in a new course offered by Dr. Naison at Fordham entitled “The Bronx: Immigration, Race and Culture.”

Dr. Naison is the founder of the Bronx African American History Project, one of the largest community based oral history projects in the nation and has brought his research into more than 20 Bronx schools, as well as Bronx based cultural organizations and NGO’s. In recent years, the BAAHP’s research has led to granting landmark status to several streets and a housing complex with historic significance, as well as the founding of a cultural center honoring the Bronx’s musical heritage.

A co-founder of the Bronx Berlin Youth Exchange, Naison has published articles about Bronx music and Bronx culture in German, Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese as well as English, and given talks about these subjects in Germany, Spain and Italy.

In addition to his scholarship, Dr Naison has done extensive news commentary on outlets as diverse as ABC, CNN, New York 1, Fox News, and Fox Business, has appeared on the O’Reilly Factor, and entered the world of comedy with a much publicized appearance on the Chappelle Show. His courses have been regularly covered on Bronx 12 News and were recently featured in a Daily News article on the most poplar college courses in New York City.


Jane K. Edward

Dr. Jane Kani Edward was born and raised in southern Sudan, and educated in Sudan, Egypt and Canada. Edward received her PhD in Sociology in Education from the University of Toronto in 2004. Currently she is a Pot-Doctoral Fellow and Director of African Immigration Research at the Bronx African American History Project at the Department of African and African American Studies, Fordham University.


Read more about Dr. Edward's Project, The Study of African Immigration in the Bronx.

Oneka LaBennett

Oneka LaBennett was a member of the BAAHP research team from 2007-2013. She is now an Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University. LaBennett is the author of She's Mad Real: Popular Culture and West Indian Girls in Brooklyn (New York University Press, 2011), and editor of Racial Formation in the Twenty-First Century (University of California Press, 2012; co-edited with Daniel Martinez HoSang and Laura Pulido). She received her PhD in Social Anthropology from Harvard University in 2002, and her BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Wesleyan University in 1994.


Peter Derrick

Peter Derrick is the head archivist at the Bronx County Historical Society and editor of the Bronx County Historical Society Journal. A former assistant director and manager at the MTA Planing Department and Capital Program Managing Department, Dr. Derrick is also the author of, Tunneling to the Future: The Story of the Great Subway Expansion that Saved New York. Dr. Derrick received his PhD in History from New York University.


Brian Purnell

Brian Purnell was a member of the BAAHP research team from 2004-2010. He now teaches history and urban studies courses in the Africana Studies Program at Bowdoin College. His first book, A Movement Grows in Brooklyn: The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Brooklyn, New York will be published by the University Press of Kentucky, and he is editing a collection of essays on the history of community formation, civil rights activism and cultural development in the Bronx entitled, Beyond the Burnings – Blacks and Puerto Ricans in the Post-WWII Bronx.


Maxine Gordon

Maxine Gordon (senior interviewer and jazz researcher) is a PhD Candidate in History of the African Diaspora at New York University working on a dissertation concerning the development of modern jazzculture in Harlem in the late 1930s. She is a CUNY graduate, the former archivist in the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, and the widow of jazz legend Dexter Gordon.


Omar Jawo

Omar Jawo (community researcher) was born and raised in rural Gambia, West Africa. He attended one of the Gambia’s best Catholic highschools i.e. Saint Augustine High School. In 1981/82 he received an Advanced Diploma in Integrated Rural Development from the Pan-African Institute for Development (PAID/WA), Buea in the United Republic of Cameroon. As a Social Worker he has more than two decades working experience with communities andindividuals of allage groups that span two continents. Omar is an educator; he taught in college and was among the first Gambian teaching assistants in the country’s first university. As a special education teaching assistant he taught autistic children for 6 years. Omar earned an Associate Degree in computer applications from New York Career Institute; BA (Hons.) in Social Work from Fordham University. Currently, he is completing his MS degree in Social Work at Columbia University. He is a life member of Phi Alpha National Honor Society of Social Workers. Omar presently works at the NYC Department of Education as a counselor helping children and their families.


Dawn Russell

Dawn Russell is a vedio/multimedia consultant who develops and produces videos for the BAAHP. In addition to making her own documentaries and short videos, Dawn has taught video production at the New School and directed and produced corporate videos for many years.


Community Researchers

Leroi Archible

Leroi "Arch" Archible moved to the Bronx from Harlem in 1960. A long time community activist, youth mentor, leader on Community Board 3, and organizer in Bronx Democratic politics, Mr. Archible is currently also one of the organizers for the "Friends of Charlton Garden," whose mission is to create a KoreanWar Veterans memorial at the site of the current Charlton Garden on 164th bet. Boston Road Cauldwell Avenue. For me information on the Friends of Charlton Garden, call 212-283-1643.

Nathan Dukes

Nathan Dukes, a social worker and educator who grew up in the Patterson Houses in Mott Haven, is a legendary figure in the history of schoolyard basketball in the Bronx. He attended a small college All-American at Benedict College in South Carolina, and is a proud product of De Witt Clinton HS and Hilton White's basketball program in Morrisania. Dukes has helped organize and conduct over twenty interviews for the BAAHP, focusing on the "golden age" of public housing in the Bronx and the great sports and music programs that once graced the borough's schools. The recipient of a Master's Degree in Social Work Administration at SUNY Stony Brook, Dukes has directed many community programs and has served as an administrator and adjunct faculty member at Hunter and Lehman Colleges.

Robert Gumbs

Robert Gumbs was born and raised on Lyman place in Morissania and educated in New York City, where he studied art and graphic design. He started Gumbs and Thomas Publishers, Inc. in 1985 and is now President of the company. In 2004, Mr. Gumbs and African American veterans from the Bronx began, "Friends of Charlton Garden," whose mission is to create a Korean War Veterans memorial at the site of the current Charlton Garden on 164th bet. Boston Road Cauldwell Avenue. For me information on the Friends of Charlton Garden, call 212-283-1643.

Beverly Lindsay-Johnson

Beverly Lindsay-Johnson is an Emmy nominated producer with Howard University Television WHUT-TV (PBS) in Washington, DC. She is the first African American and first female to receive the Central Educational Network (CEN) Jerry Trainor Award for her work with Public Television. Ms. Lindsay-Johnson was raised in Morrisania and attended P.S. 99 and P.S. 54. She was instrumental in organizing the BAAHP tribute to the late Morrisania singer/songwrwiter Arthur Crier. She is the VP for the Atlanta Doo-Wop Association, which preserves the history and culture of early R&B and Doo-Wop, and founded by Arthur Crier. Currently, she collaborates with early R&B and Doo-Wop recording artists from the Bronx for BAAHP oral history interviews.

Harriet McFeeters

Harriet McFeeters was born and raised and is still a resident of Morrisania. She earned degrees from Hunter College and Fordham University and has worked with the Board of Education for over thirty-five years. Mrs. McFeeters has taught on all grade levels and was a Deputy Superintendent for District 8. Harriet McFeeters has become an important part of the BAAHP research team as an advisor on the history of public school education in the Bronx. She also helps conduct interviews, encourages friends and family members to participate in the oral history project, and serves on the Project's fundraising committee. Her dedication to public service is undergirded by a family creed, "Equal Opportunity Means Equal Responsibility."

Joe Orange

Joe Orange is a retired health insurance executive, currently running his own health insurance consulting firm near his home in Columbia, Maryland. Born and raised in the Morrisania section of the Bronx he is also a Jazz trombonist having worked with Lionel Hampton, Eddie Palmieri, Charlie Palmieri, Lloyd Price, Herbie Mann, and many others. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his business accomplishments including the Harlem YMCA's "Black Achiever' award.

Jim Pruitt

Jim Pruitt was born and raised in Morissania. Jim attended school at PS 99, JHS 40 and Morris High School. He then attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, where he received a BA in history. Mr. Pruitt became a teacher at Morris high school for seven years, from 1964-71. He also worked as Assistant Director at Fordham Upward Bound from 1969-71 and then from 1971-80 he worked as the Upward Bound Project Director. After 1980, Jim spent the next 23 years teaching at John F, Kennedy High School. He is currently member of the Morris high school alumni/scholarship committee.

Graduate Researchers

Lisa V. Betty

Lisa Betty is a PhD candidate in History at Fordham University in New York City. She serves as the current Graduate Assistant for the Bronx African American History Project at Fordham supporting Bronx community collaboration and development of the oral history digital archive.  In addition to her research within academic spaces, she has worked in the field of nonprofit advocacy serving in organizations that advocate for children, families and incarcerated populations.

Michael Partis

Michael Partis is a Graduate Researcher for the Bronx African American History Project, where he conducts ethnographic research on South Bronx public housing residents. He is also a doctoral student in Anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center and Research Associate at the Howard Samuels State Management and Policy Center. Michael has been involved in grassroots activism around Hurricane Katrina recovery in New Orleans, community organizing on issues with education in New York City, and youth work through numerous workshops and speaking engagements for Black and Latino urban teens. He is the co-founder and co-director of The Bronx Brotherhood Project: a community based youth program designed to provide college awareness and adult male mentorship for poor and low-income Bronx Black and Latino high school males.

Corey Spencer

Corey Lionel Spencer is a Ph.D. Candidate in English at Fordham University, Rose Hill Campus. He serves as the current Graduate Assistant for the Bronx African American History Project at Fordham supporting Bronx community collaboration and development of the oral history digital archive. He organizes community events from jazz performances, guest lectures to art exhibits. His research focuses on oral traditions in African American Literature with a specific interest in the legacy of "the song" (i.e. spirituals, hymns, blues, etc) throughout Black culture. He questions the recent practice of ghostwriting in hip hop and whether it enhances or desecrates this legacy.

Damien Strecker

Damien Strecker is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Fordham University. Previous to his time at Fordham, he worked at the Black Film Center/Archive at Indiana University and assisted with a course on the history of race and sports. He also taught social studies for 7 years in Fairfield Ohio. At Fordham, he concentrates on American history with an emphasis on the African American experience. He began work on the BAAHP during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Affiliated Scholars

Natasha Lightfoot

Natasha Lightfoot completed her PhD from New York University's Department of History. She is a specialist in the history of the African Diaspora and the Caribbean. Her research focuses on resistance and identity among black working-class people in post-emancipation Antigua. Born and raised in the Bronx, she received her BA in History from Yale University, and an MA in History from New York University. After serving for one year as BAAHP Project Administrator she has accepted a position as Assistant Professor of History at Columbia University. Dr. Lightfoot will continueto work as the BAAHP's specilaist in West Indian migration and settlement in the Bronx


Frederick Opie

Frederick Douglass Opie earned a PhD in History at Syracuse University in 1999. He is writing a book that interprets African American and Latino relations in Brooklyn, Harlem, the Bronx, and suburban areas to the north in Westchester County, New York. The book focuses on southern African American and Hispanic Caribbean migrants in New York and the race and gender dynamics that develop between them. He teaches courses on Latin American, African Diaspora, and African American history. His first book based on his doctoral dissertation looks at black and Latino relations on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala at the turn of the century. Opie’s second book is a foodways study of the history of northern urban identity as seen through the development of soul food from the Atlantic slave trade to Black Power.

Susanne Stemmler

Susanne Stemmler (PhD) is a post-doctoral fellow of the Graduate Research Program Berlin – New York at the Center for Metropolitan Studies in Berlin. She studied French literature and culture and was a lecturer of French and Media Studies at the University of Düsseldorf (Germany). She is the editor of the book, Hip-hop and rap music in Algeria, France, Italy, Cuba and Latin America (2007),the author of Topographies of the Gaze: Orientalism in French 19th Century Literature (2004) and various articles on urban culture, migration, diversity and hip-hop in New York, Paris, Marseille, Algiers, Dakar and also on francophone literature and cinema in North- and Westafrica.She is currently working on a book on rap music and immigration in New York, Paris and Berlin. Susanne was a visiting fellow at Columbia University in Fall 2005, and at the Bronx African American History Project at Fordham University in Spring 2007. She conducted fieldwork in the Bronx and also took part in some of the interviews. She recently has curated the panel and film series "Sounds of New York" (featuring Henry Chalfant with the German release of "From Mambo to Hip-Hop. A Bronx Tale", Joe Bataan, Joe Conzo sr., Tony Touch, La Bruja, Juan Flores) and the conference „New York - Berlin: Cultural Diversity in Urban Space" (with Mark Naison, Marshal Berman, David Maurrasse, Nancy Foner) at the House of World Cultures in Berlin.