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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

Fall 2022

Spring 2023


Dr. James Alexander Robinson is an assistant professor in the Ethnic Studies and Religious Studies Department with an emphasis in Black Studies at the Metropolitan State University on its Saint Paul Dayton’s Bluff campus. Robinson is an interdisciplinary trained scholar of Black Studies. His research interests are in the learning, teaching, 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 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 PhD degree in Black Studies, 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 is learner-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; 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 academe, 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 2022); and co-author with Earl Lewis, Justin Shoffner, et. al., “The Third Slavery: Towards Ending All Forms of Involuntary Servitude in Our Life Time,” Journal of Modern Slavery, (Summer 2021); and “Giving Voice: The Power of Words in African American Culture,” Smithsonian Folklife Festival Program (2009). On the web see also, "Curator James Robinson Reflects on the Giving Voice Program," Smithsonian Folklife Festival – Festival Blog 2009 Folklife Festival Giving Voice.

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.