Barbara Ransby is an historian, writer and longtime activist. She is a Distinguished Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where she directs the campus-wide Social Justice Initiative. She previously served as Director of the Gender and Women’s Studies Program and Interim Vice Provost for Planning and Programs (2011 -2012) at UIC. Prof. Ransby is author of the highly acclaimed biography, Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision. The book received eight national awards and recognitions including Lillian Smith Book Award, Southern Regional Council; Joan Kelly Memorial Prize, American Historical Association; Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Prize, Association of Black Women Historians; Liberty Legacy Foundation Award (co-winner), Organization of American Historians; James A. Rawley Prize, Organization of American Historians; Honorable Mention, 2004 Berkshire Conference First Book Prize, Berkshire Conference of Women Historians; Honor Book, Black Caucus of the American Library Association; Outstanding Book Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America.
Her most recent book is Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson (Yale University Press, January 2013). Ransby has also published in numerous scholarly and popular publications and lectures widely. In terms of her activism, Ransby was an initiator of the African American Women in Defense of Ourselves campaign in 1991, a co-convener of The Black Radical Congress in 1998, and a founder of Ella’s Daughters, a network of women working in Ella Baker’s tradition. She has published and lectured widely at conferences, community forums and on over 50 college campuses, including: University of Michigan, Stanford, Syracuse University, Cornell, UNC Chapel Hill, Yale, University of Chicago, Harvard, University of Iowa, Williams College and UC Santa Cruz. Her articles have appeared in popular as well as scholarly venues, including: The Miami Herald, the Detroit Free Press, In These Times and The Progressive. Barbara is a part of the national advisory board of Imagining America and serves on the editorial boards of the London-based journal, Race and Class; the Justice, Power and Politics Series at University of North Carolina Press; and the Scholar’s Advisory Committee of Ms. magazine. In the summer of 2012 she became the second Editor in Chief of SOULS, a critical journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society published quarterly. In 2016, Barbara was elected President of the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA).