Associate Professor — Ph.D., 1999, History, University of Pennsylvania
Black Studies Faculty Highlight
Posted April 3, 2012
Faculty Highlight: Dr. Kali Gross, Associate Professor of AADS
The African and African Diaspora Studies Department (AADS) and the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies (WCAAAS) is happy to welcome the newest addition to Black Studies at UT, Dr. Kali Gross. Dr. Gross comes to UT from Drexel University in Philadelphia, where she was an Associate Professor of History and Politics and the Director of Drexel’s Africana Studies Program. Dr. Gross’s work focuses on African American women’s history, including those women who are incarcerated in U.S. prisons; women’s studies; gender studies; comparative theories of race, gender, and sexuality, and violence in the Americas and the African Diaspora; intersections of race, science, and technology; and criminal justice, North and South, between 1880 and 1945.
Dr. Gross received her B.A. in Africana Studies, magna cum laude, from Cornell University, and her M.A. in American Civilization and Ph.D. in History from the University of Pennsylvania. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, Dr. Gross has served a scholar-in-residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture as well as a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Princeton University. In 2006, Dr. Gross won the Letitia Woods Brown Book Prize from the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH) for Colored Amazons: Crime, Violence, and Black Women in the City of Brotherly Love, 1880-1910 (Duke University Press, 2006). She was also appointed by the Organization of American Historians’ president-elect to serve as an OAH Distinguished Lecturer in 2009. Dr. Gross is currently a full faculty member in the AADS department, as well as an affiliate of WCAAAS.
This spring, Dr. Gross is teaching the graduate course “Violence and Vice: New Readings in African American Women’s History.”
Black Studies asked Dr. Gross to discuss her scholarship and her new position at UT.
AADS: Welcome to Austin! What are your thoughts about a Texas winter, in comparison with east coast storms?
Dr. Gross: Austin will clearly have the East Coast beat when it comes to winter, but summer is a toss-up.
AADS: Can you describe your Spring 2012 course “Violence and Vice”? What do you hope that students will take away from this course?
Dr. Gross: The course is designed to explore new works that examine otherwise underserved aspects of sexuality and violence in African American Women’s History. We will examine the newer texts against the historiography of black women’s history so that students can get a sense of how the field has evolved. It may also help some students better situate their own work.
AADS: How do you think your scholarship will add to and complement other AADS, Center, and UT faculty’s work?
Dr. Gross: I am very excited about having my research and critical analyses challenged and sharpened by the interdisciplinary exchanges with my AADS colleagues. Plus, with so many wonderful scholars engaged in historical work on race, gender, and justice, I expect to benefit from and contribute to the work being produced—particularly because my work concentrates on violence and increasingly on contemplating the historical impact of trauma as a result of racial discrimination. I think this focus will expand and complement the terrific work already being done at UT.
AADS: You have done a lot of work on black history in the Philadelphia area. Is there anything about Austin’s black history that strikes you as important for the community to be aware of?
Dr. Gross: I am in a frenzy to finish my second book project on Philadelphia because I am dying to delve into the sources here in Austin on black women and the Texas criminal justice system. Moreover, as the point person on the AADS new initiative to reclaim the history of black women in Texas, I am hoping to continue to build upon scholarly research in this area.
AADS: You took part in the October 20th Warfield Center roundtable talk on The Help, and your insights on the book and film added much to the discussion. How does the prominence of this work in popular media confront your scholarship? Does it change anything or speak to any truths for black scholarship in the current day?
Dr. Gross: Both my participation in the discussion as well as the ABWH Statement about the film and book, for me, are less about my own research and more about having a responsibility to safeguard African American Women’s History. The Help does a tremendous disservice to the historical experiences of black domestics. The only good to come out it, as far as I am concerned, are the discussions about the historical realities so that the abuses and exploitation that black women suffered at the hands of racist whites in the South in the1960s is more thoroughly explicated.
AADS: What are you looking to most about teaching at UT this spring?
Dr. Gross: I am looking forward to working with vibrant students, who will bring fresh insights to the texts that we study.