I am currently a Lecturer in the Departments of History and African American Studies at University of California-Los Angeles. From 2014-2016, I was the Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. I received my PhD from University of Southern California’s Department of American Studies and Ethnicity in 2014. Trained in interdisciplinary methods, I am a historian whose work focuses on the interconnection between social movements, public policy, and political economy in post-1865 U.S. history. My fields of interest include African American Studies, history of capitalism, working-class history, policing and imprisonment, U.S. and the world, fiscal and monetary policy, and heterodox economics.
My book manuscript, Fearing Inflation, Inflating Fears: The Civil Rights Struggle for Full Employment and the Rise of the Carceral State, 1929-1986, is under contract with University of North Carolina Press for their Justice, Power and Politics series. At the heart of the mid-twentieth century Black freedom movement stood a demand for a governmental guarantee to employment. Fearing Inflation documents the development of this economic agenda and explains why and how it was stifled. It charts A. Philip Randolph’s and Bayard Rustin’s campaign for “The Freedom Budget for All Americans,” and Coretta Scott King’s subsequent efforts to enlarge the social welfare state via the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act. The chapters analyze a series of power struggles over federal governmental responses to structural unemployment from the 1930s to the 1980s, illuminating how politicians, organized business interests, and actions by the Federal Reserve converged to help prevent the full success of these campaigns. Instead of expanding welfare state capacities to accommodate civil rights demands for guaranteed jobs, the federal government increased its punitive capacities for policing and imprisonment in the 1960s and after. I argue that mass incarceration arose as an alternative political response to a crisis posed by structural joblessness.
I am also working two new book projects. The first—There Were Alternatives: Working Class Resistance to Racism and Neoliberalism—is a linked set of biographies of leading activists who worked in, alongside, and sometimes against trade unions to resist the impacts of neoliberalism. It investigates the work of Coretta Scott King and the Full Employment Action Council; Cleveland Robinson and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists; James Haughton and the Harlem Unemployment Center and Fight Back; and Jerry Tucker and the United Auto Workers New Directions movement.
The second—Making Money: Racial Capitalism from the Gold Standard to the Dollar Standard—examines the history of money through the lens of racial capitalism. I situate the history of the international gold standard alongside that of gold miners in South Africa and elsewhere to show how the labors of gold miners were integral to international trade in the late 19th Century and after. I then describe the struggles to create monetary stability and faith in fiat currencies in the mid-twentieth centuries and after. In so doing, I inquire into the racial politics of central bank independence and what role this has played in leading central banks to prioritize inflation containment above employment, and how central bank independence has enabled U.S. Treasury securities to serve as a key source of portfolio stability for investors throughout the world.
I also co-host and produce Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast with Betsy Beasley.