UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Crystal Sanders, associate professor of history and African-American studies at Penn State, has been named director of the Africana Research Center effective July 1.
The Africana Research Center seeks to encourage and support research and scholarship that enhances the lives of Africans across Africa and the African Diaspora, and serves as a catalyst for promoting an enabling environment where cultural production and discourse on diversity can be nurtured in order to advance the research, teaching, and outreach missions of Penn State.
“I am delighted that Crystal has agreed to become the next director of the Africana Research Center,” said Susan Welch, dean of the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts. “I have no doubt that the contributions she makes as ARC’s next leader will mirror the scholarly contributions she has already made as a post-doctoral fellow and faculty affiliate of the center. I know that, under her leadership, the ARC will enhance its stature inside and outside the University.”
Sanders has been a member of the Penn State faculty since completing her post-doctoral fellowship with ARC in 2012. She earned her doctorate in U.S. history and her master’s degree in history from Northwestern University and her baccalaureate in history and public policy from Duke University. Her dissertation, “To Be Free of Fear: Black Women’s Fight for Freedom Through the Child Development Group of Mississippi,” earned Sanders the 2012 Claude A. Eggertsen Dissertation Prize from the History of Education Society and the 2012 C. Vann Woodward Dissertation Prize from the Southern Historical Association.
Sanders is a 20th-century historian with a special interest in African-American history, Southern U.S. history, and the history of black education. She is the author of “A Chance for Change: Head Start and Mississippi's Black Freedom Struggle” (University of North Carolina Press, 2016), for which she received the 2017 New Scholar’s Book Award from the American Educational Research Association (Division F) and was a finalist for the 2016 Hooks National Book Award from the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change. Other accolades include the 2018 Willie D. Halsell Article Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society; fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the Filson Historical Society, and the North Caroliniana Society; and being named a visiting scholar by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has been a leader in the Richards Civil War Era Center mentoring program for emerging scholars from underrepresented groups.
As ARC’s next director, Sanders hopes to raise the center’s profile on and off campus and support cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. “I am thrilled to lead ARC,” Sanders said. “I believe the center will become a foremost institution nationally and internationally for critical examinations of life and culture throughout Africa and its diaspora.”