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James Robinson

  • Assistant Professor


  • Doctor of Philosophy, Black Studies
    University of Iowa
  • Master of Arts, History, General
    University of Iowa
  • Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology, General
    Macalester College

Recent and upcoming courses

Spring 2024

Fall 2024


James Alexander Robinson is an interdisciplinary trained scholar in Black Studies, with an earned PhD in Black Studies. Dr. Robinson is currently the assistant professor of Black Studies within the Ethnic, Gender, Historical, and Philosophical Studies Department at Metro State University on its Saint Paul Dayton’s Bluff campus. His research interests include the learning, teaching, methodology, history, and theory of Black Studies. He also is a research specialist in the study of Black railroad dining car cooks and waiters, their unions, communities, and families, and black railway labor in general.

Robinson’s doctoral dissertation, “Black Studies Definitions: An Archive, A Year of Promise, and A Conceptual Approach” argues for a resource knowledge-based conceptual definition of this intellectual discipline. As one of the first doctorates with the Black Studies PhD, Robinson's research program addresses all aspects of Black Studies phenomenon.

Most recently, Robinson completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Michigan's Center for Social Solutions and worked as Digital Research Associate with the Digital Scholarship and Publishing Studio at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Robinson's approach to instruction and pedagogy is learner- and learning-centered. His teaching practice builds on his research to explore various schools of thought in Ethnic Studies as he develops a home-grown ethnic studies curriculum.

Robinson previously taught courses on Black Intellectual History, Black Culture History, and Black Television Drama at Iowa. He was an instructor in Black Life and Culture in the U.S. at Berkeley. Robinson has conducted workshops on Afro-American Cognitive Styles, Teaching Race in the Classroom, and coordinated Anti-Racism Training programming.

Outside of academia, Robinson worked at the Smithsonian Institution as curator of “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture” for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and as research coordinator for "The Will to Adorn: African American Diversity, Style, and Identity" for the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

His publications include, “Demotic Rhythms: Margaret Walker’s Poetics of History from Below - The Options and Limits of Black Internationalism,” In African American Literature in Transition: 1940-1950 edited by Lena Hill, and Michael Hill. Cambridge University Press, (publication forthcoming); and co-author with Earl Lewis, Justin Shoffner, et. al., “The Third Slavery: Towards Ending All Forms of Involuntary Servitude in Our Life Time,” (forthcoming); Rienzi Brock Lemus (1880-1969)," African American National Biography (2019); and “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture,” Smithsonian Folklife Festival Program (2009). On the web watch the interview, "Curator James Robinson Reflects on the Giving Voice Program," Smithsonian Folklife Festival Blog 2009.

James is a native son of the metropolitan Twin Cities. While living in Saint Paul’s old Rondo community, his schooling was in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota's laboratory school. He enjoys music, dance, theater, and athletics. As a professor, James is excited about joining the learning community at Metro State to collaborate with students, staff, and faculty to educate and to make a better life for people of the metropolitancy.