Allyson Hobbs, Scholar of African-American History, to Deliver Public Lecture at UMass Amherst

Allyson Hobbs
Allyson Hobbs

Editors note: The text has been updated with the new date of Hobbs’ lecture.

AMHERST, Mass. – The award-winning historian and Stanford University professor Allyson Hobbs will visit the University of Massachusetts Amherst history department during the week of March 20 as the UMass/Five College History Graduate Program’s 11th annual “Writer-in-Residence.”

Hobbs will deliver a free public lecture titled “Far From Sanctuary: African American Travel and the Road to Civil Rights” on Thursday, March 23 at 4 p.m. in 174-76 Campus Center. In her lecture, Hobbs will explore African-American travel during the early to mid-20th century and the role of the car in African-American culture. Part of a forthcoming book by the same title, Hobbs’ lecture will explore the emotional lives of black drivers – including the sense of pride, the seduction, and the exhilaration that owning a car offered – as well as the broader fears, violence, and exclusions that African Americans experienced when they got behind the wheel.

“Professor Allyson Hobbs is a leading scholar and public intellectual whose work illuminates the complexity of African American life and the persistence of racism in the American experience,” says Barbara Krauthamer, associate professor of history and associate dean of the UMass Amherst Graduate School. “Her residency in the history department will give our community a wonderful opportunity to engage with a highly acclaimed scholar of African-American history.”

Hobbs is associate professor in the department of history and director of African and African American studies at Stanford University. She is a contributing staff writer for the New, a distinguished lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, and has appeared on MSNBC and National Public Radio. Her work has been featured on, and in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The Christian Science Monitor.

Hobbs’ first book, “A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life,” examines the phenomenon of racial passing in the United States from the late 18th century to the present, and was the winner of two of the field’s most prestigious awards, the Jackson Turner Prize for best first book in American history and the Lawrence Levine Prize for best book in American cultural history. It was also aNew York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice and “Best Book of 2014” by the San Francisco Chronicle.

With major funding from Five Colleges, Inc., the UMass Amherst history department’s writer-in-residence program brings history writers of national prominence to campus to work with students and faculty and to deliver a public lecture. Professor Stephen Platt notes, “It’s easy sometimes to forget that history is an art as well as a social science. For years now, the writer-in-residence program has played a crucial role in engaging our graduate students and the public with established writers at the top of their game who can talk with them in detail about the craft of writing history and inspire them to reach out to the wider reading public in their own work.”

Hobbs’s lecture is free and open to the public

“The History Department will provide free parking vouchers for the UMass parking garage, which is a short distance from the venue,” notes History Engagement Director Jessica Johnson. “Hobbs’s work and approach has broad appeal. We encourage anyone interested in history, writing, civil rights, automobile culture, and the complexities of race, racism and the African-American experience in U.S. history and life to join us for this crucial lecture.”

To arrange an interview with Hobbs, contact Mary Lashway, UMass Amherst history department graduate program assistant, at, 413/545-6755.