Mari Crabtree

Associate Professor

Address: Education Center, Room 207-E
Curriculum Vitae: Download

Mari N. Crabtree is an associate professor of African American Studies and previously was a visiting research scholar with Princeton University's Department of African American Studies. She specializes in African American culture and history, in particular how the African American cultural tradition has shaped the Black freedom struggle in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her book, My Soul Is a Witness: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching, was published in 2022 by Yale University Press as part of the New Directions in Narrative History series. This monograph unearths how African Americans lived through and beyond traumatic memories of lynching in the mid-twentieth century US South. Drawing upon a wide range of narrative responses to lynching, this book develops a theory of African American trauma that uses the sensibility of the blues as its central metaphor. She also has written essays for RaritanRethinking HistoryContemporaries, and an edited volume, Reconstruction at 150. Currently, she is working on a new book project that examines the pleasures and political utility of guile, deception, and humor in the African American cultural tradition titled Shuffling Like Uncle Tom, Thinking Like Nat Turner: Humor, Deception, and Irony in the African American Cultural Tradition.

Professor Crabtree teaches courses on African American music, mass incarceration, collective memories of racial violence, the life and writings of James Baldwin, and Afro-Asian cultural and political connections.


Ph.D., History, Cornell University
Dissertation: The Devil is Watching You: Lynching and Southern Memory, 1940-1970
Advisors: Nick Salvatore, Robert L. Harris, Jr., Russell J. Rickford, Kenneth A. McClane

M.A., History, Cornell University
Fields: African American History, American History, African American Literature

A.B., Black Studies, Amherst College
Honors: magna cum laude
Advisors: Jeffrey B. Ferguson, David W. Blight

Research Interests

African American History

African American Literature

Racial Violence, Trauma Studies, and Memory Studies

Irony, Humor, and Subterfuge in the African American Cultural Tradition

Courses Taught

Introduction to African American Studies

Introduction to African American Music

Mongrel America: Miscegenation, Passing, and the Myth of Racial Purity

Remembering and Forgetting: Race, Violence, and American Cultural Memory

Mass Incarceration and Its Roots

The Life and Writings of James Baldwin

Lynching in the American Imagination

When Bruce Lee Meets Bruce Leroy: Afro-Asian Political and Cultural Connections

Internship in African American Studies

Capstone in African American Studies



My Soul Is a Witness: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2022. 

Articles and Book Chapters

“Periodizing Lynching, Contextualizing Violence.” In Reconstruction at 150: Reassessing the Revolutionary “New Birth of Freedom,” edited by Orville Vernon Burton and J. Brent Morris. Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 2023.

“The Value of Integrating African American Archives into Undergraduate African American Studies Curricula.” In Ethnic Studies in Academic and Research Libraries, edited by Raymond Pun, Melissa Cardenas-Dow, and Kenya S. Flash. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2021. [co-authored with Aaisha Haykal]

“Stick to the Script?! No, Stick It to the Man!” Contemporaries (22 June 2021):

 “The Ethics of Writing History in the Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching.” Rethinking History 24, no. 3–4 (2020): 351–367. doi:10.1080/13642529.2020.1846968.

 “The Art and Politics of Subterfuge in African American Culture.” Raritan: A Quarterly Review 38, no. 1 (Summer 2018): 69−92.

Book Reviews

Review of A Sound History: Lawrence Gellert, Black Musical Protest, and White Denial, by Steven P. Garabedian. American Historical Review (accepted).

Review of Lynching: Violence, Rhetoric, and American Identity, by Ersula J. Ore. Journal of American History 107, no. 3 (December 2020): 717–718.

Review of Sounding the Color Line: Music and Race in the Southern Imagination, by Erich Nunn. African American Review 50, no. 1 (Spring 2017): 85–87.

Review of Democracy Abroad, Lynching at Home: Racial Violence in Florida, by Tameka Bradley Hobbs. Journal of Southern History 82, no. 4 (November 2016): 950– 951.

Review of Chained in Silence: Black Women and Convict Labor in the New South, by Talitha L. LeFlouria. H-Afro-Am, H-Net Reviews. June, 2016.

Review of Black Woman Reformer: Ida B. Wells, Lynching, and Transatlantic Activism, by Sarah L. Silkey. Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 114, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 261–263.

Other Publications

“When Academic Life Is a Horror Show: Mariama Diallo’s ‘Master’ Satirizes On-Campus Racism in Sharp but Uneven Strokes.” Chronicle of Higher Education (12 May 2022):

“Enduring Histories of Anti-Black Violence.” Historian Speaks (blog) 20 July 2020.

"The Black and White Views of Charleston's Racially Charged Murder Trials," in Mother Jones, 1 December 2016.

“The History of Jim Crow,” in Backlist, May 2016.

“Elegy and Effigy,” in The Appendix: A New Journal of Narrative and Experimental History, 2, no. 2 (May 2014).