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Jacob S. Dorman

Associate Professor
Primary office:
Wescoe Hall
Room 3613

Gilded Age and Progressive Era, Religion, Popular Culture, African American, Urban, Whiteness.

Research Profile:

Jacob S. Dorman is jointly appointed in History and American Studies. He received his Ph.D. in U.S. History from UCLA in 2004 and an A.B. from Stanford University summa cum laude in 1996. He has won an ACLS Charles Ryskamp Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship at the Newberry Library, the Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Wesleyan University Center for the Humanities, and research fellowships from Yale, Columbia, Duke, Wisconsin, the University of Texas, Harvard University’s Du Bois Institute, and the Hall Center for the Humanities of the University of Kansas.

Dorman is the author of Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), which won three book awards. The American Historical Association commendation called it “a bold, compelling history...a novel intervention in scholarly debates of cultural change in the African diaspora, a must-read for scholars of the African diaspora, religious studies, and cultural production.” Robin D.G. Kelley of UCLA assessed it as “an immense contribution…. The research is prodigious, the scope impressive…. Most importantly, Chosen People reminds us that people are not merely inheritors of tradition but its creators."

Dorman has delivered portions of a second manuscript, “Black Orientalism: Circus, Magic, and American Islam” at the American Historical Association and other venues. 

Recent Publications: 


Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Winner of the Wesley-Logan Prize for African diaspora history from the American Historical Association; the Albert J. Raboteau Prize in Africana religions; and the Byron Caldwell Smith Book Award. Named an American Library Association Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2013.

In progress:  Black Orientalism: Circus, Magic, and the Making of American Islam

Select Articles and Book Chapters:

“Oriental Hieroglyphics Understood Only by the Priesthood and a Choosen (sic) Few:” The Islamic Orientalism of White and Black Masons and Shriners in Islam and the Atlantic World: New Paradigms from Latin America and the Caribbean, edited by Aisha Khan, University Press of Florida, 2015.

 “Skin Bleach and Civilization: The Racial Formation of Blackness in 1920s Harlem.” The Journal of Pan African Studies 4 no. 4, (June 2011): 46-79. Special Issue: Skin Bleaching and Global White Supremacy.

“‘Lifted out of the Commonplace Grandeur of Modern Times:’ Reappraising Edward Wilmot Blyden’s Views of Islam and Afrocentrism in Light of His Scholarly Black Christian Orientalism” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 12, no 4 (October 2010): 398-418.

“Back to Harlem: Abstract and Everyday Labor during the ‘Harlem Renaissance’” in The Harlem Renaissance Revisited: Politics, Arts, and Letters, 74-90. Ed. Jeffrey O. G. Ogbar. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

Select Book Reviews:

 “Ever the Twain Shall Meet: Orientalism and American Studies.” A state-of-the-field book review of: Jacob Rama Berman, American Arabesque: Arabs, Islam, and the 19th-Century Imaginary (New York: New York University Press, 2012); Sohail Daulatzai, Black Star, Crescent Moon: The Muslim International and Black Freedom in America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012); Waïl S. Hassan, Immigrant Narratives: Orientalism and Cultural Translation in Arab American and Arab British Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Hsu-Ming Teo, Desert Passions: Orientalism and Romance Novels (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2012); Alex Lubin, Geographies of Liberation: The Making of an Afro-Arab Political Imaginary  (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2014). American Quarterly: The Official Publication of the American Studies Association 67 no. 2 (June 2015): 491-503.

Lori Harrison-Kahan, The White Negress: Literature, Minstrelsy, and the Black-Jewish Imaginary (New  Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011), Journal of American History 99 no. 2 (2012): 628-9.

Derek Chang, Citizens of a Christian Nation: Evangelical Missions and the Problem of Race in the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), The American Historical Review 116, No. 3 (June 2011): 816-817.

Teaching Profile:

Dorman teaches courses in U.S. cultural history, focusing on popular culture, religion, the Gilded Age and Progressive Eras, and African American history since the Civil War. He also teaches theory and methods courses for both the History and American Studies Departments. He has created experiential learning opportunities that use the surrounding area as an extended classroom and field site in courses on methods and archival research, on urban planning and ecological history, as well as on Langston Hughes and his time in Lawrence, Kansas. Dorman has “flipped” several courses to maximize student involvement and learning, and uses film, art, and music to enrich classroom presentations. He employs an interactive style of lecturing and engaged classroom discussions, and cares about students developing analytical skills, written abilities, collaborative experience, and ethical sensibilities, not simply mastering course content.

Recent Courses:

  • HIST 129: History of the United States After the Civil War
  • HIST/AMS 312: American Culture, 1877 to the Present
  • HIST 413: Industrializing America, 1877 to 1920
  • HIST/AMS/AAAS 316: Ministers and Magicians: Black Religions from Slavery to the Present
  • HIST 696: Seminar in: Race and Religion
  • AMS 696: Studies In: The History of Harlem and Its “Renaissance”
  • AMS 802: Theorizing America

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