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Peniel  Joseph

Peniel Joseph

Professor, Thought Leader, Best-Selling Author & Founding Director, LBJ School of Public Affairs CSRD

Peniel Joseph

Professor, Thought Leader, Best-Selling Author & Founding Director, LBJ School of Public Affairs CSRD


In Fall 2015, Dr. Peniel E. Joseph joined the University of Texas at Austin as Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. He received a joint professorship appointment at the LBJ School of Public Affairs as the Barbara Jordan Chair in Ethics and Political Values and at the History Department in the College of Liberal Arts. Prior to joining the UT faculty, Dr. Joseph was a professor at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, where he also founded the school’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy to promote engaged research and scholarship focused on the ways issues of race and democracy impact the lives of global citizens. He received a B.A. from SUNY at Stony Brook and a Ph.D. from Temple University.

Dr. Joseph’s career focus has been on what he describes as “Black Power Studies,” which encompasses interdisciplinary fields such as Africana studies, law and society, women’s and ethnic studies, and political science. He is a frequent national commentator on issues of race, democracy and civil rights, and has authored award-winning books Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama, and Stokely: A Life. Dr. Joseph’s most recent book, The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr., has received broad acclaim as the definitive dual biography of two of the most important Black political leaders of the 20th century.

The recipient of fellowships from Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Ford Foundation, Dr. Joseph’s essays have appeared in The Journal of American History, The Chronicle Review, The New York Times, The Black Scholar, Souls, and American Historical Review. Dr. Joseph is a frequent contributor to Newsweek, The Root, and Reuters, and his articles, Op-Eds, and book reviews have been published in newspapers from The Washington Post to The New York Times. Dr. Joseph’s commentary has been featured on National Public Radio, The Colbert Report, PBS, and MSNBC.

Speaker Videos

Freedom and Liberation

Speech Topics

The Third Reconstruction

Drawing from the best-selling book The Third Reconstruction, distinguished historian Peniel E. Joseph offers a powerful and personal new interpretation of recent history. The racial reckoning that unfolded in 2020, he argues, marked the climax of a Third Reconstruction: a new struggle for citizenship and dignity for Black Americans, just as momentous as the movements that arose after the Civil War and during the civil rights era. Joseph draws revealing connections and insights across centuries as he traces this Third Reconstruction from the election of Barack Obama to the rise of Black Lives Matter to the failed assault on the Capitol. America’s first and second Reconstructions fell tragically short of their grand aims. In this inspiring keynote, Joseph orates that the Third Reconstruction offers a new chance to achieve Black dignity and citizenship at last—an opportunity to choose hope over fear.