Mari Crabtree

Associate Professor

Address: Education Center, Room 207-A
Phone: 843-953-1013
Curriculum Vitae: Download

Mari N. Crabtree is an associate professor of African American Studies and an affiliate of the History Department and has previously  been 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 African American struggles for freedom in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her book, My Soul is a Witness: The Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching, 1940–1970, is under contract at Yale University Press for the New Directions in Narrative History series and will be published in 2021. This monograph unearths how African Americans processed 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 an essay on subterfuge in the African American cultural tradition published in Raritan as well as an essay on reimagining the temporal and geographic boundaries of lynching that will appear in an edited volume, Reconstruction at 150. Her next book project expands upon the subject of her Raritan article, and it is 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, 1940−1970. (book manuscript, under contract at Yale University Press for the New Directions in Narrative History Series).

Articles and Book Chapters

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

“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 (accepted).

“The Ethics of Writing History in the Traumatic Afterlife of Lynching.” (article manuscript).

Book Reviews

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

"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.

Freedom on the Move: A Database of Fugitives from North American Slavery, research assistant for Prof. Edward Baptist, digital humanities project, 2013–2014.

“African Americans and Emigration,” “Mound Bayou,” and “Marcus Garvey and the UNIA” in The American Yawp: A Free and Online, Collaboratively Built American History Textbook. 2015.

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