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Luther Adams - Free Man of Color

Associate Professor of Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies
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University of Pennsylvania
University of Louisville


• Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies
• Center for the Study of Community and Society at UW Tacoma

Scholarly Interests

• African American Religious History
• Black Culture
• Cities – Urban Space
• Civil Rights
• Kentucky History
• Labor Studies
• Police Brutality
• Southern History


Luther Adams – Free Man of Color is both a student and teacher of Black history and culture, my work brings the interdisciplinary study of urban, southern, labor and religious history together to understand Black culture and life. I mentor and graduate students, share my work and expertise publicly at conferences, schools, churches, theaters, prisons & libraries, and with local & national media. I am Associate Professor of Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies at the University of Washington in Tacoma.

I am grateful for the support provided by fellowships at:
• Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities
• New York Public Library
• Center for African American Urban Studies and the Economy at Carnegie Mellon University
• NEH Summer Institute on African American Civil Rights at Harvard University
• Woodford R. Porter, Sr. Scholarship

My research is on police brutality, African American migration and religion, urban history, and Black culture. My work began with Black history in Kentucky and expanded to encompass Black history and life broadly across space and time. I think, speak, and write about Black history and culture. I am author of Way Up North in Louisville: African American Migration in the Urban South, 1930-1970. I am writing NO JUSTICE NO PEACE, a history of African Americans’ struggles with and against police brutality.

Academic Service

Public Forum, “Taking Stock: Lessons Learned from Historical and Contemporary Policy Perspectives on Racialized and Violent Policing,” African Americans, Health, and Policing during the Age of the Corona Virus, Carnegie Mellon University, May 7, 2021.

Black History and Black Culture, Guest Speaker, Rising Sons Extended, Office of African American Male Achievement, Seattle Public Schools, April 26 & 27, 2021.

“Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series: A Historian’s Eye,” Guest Speaker in Dr. Juliet Sperling, Art History 400, Art and Seattle: Jacob Lawrence, April 22, 2021.

Tacoma News Tribune Editorial Board, “George Floyd Verdict Shows Urgency as Manuel Ellis Family, Tacoma Wait…and Wait,” Tacoma News Tribune, April 21, 2021.

Humanities Washington, Panelist, “Law and Disorder: Police Violence & Race in America,” November 17, 2020.

Christin Ayers, “KING 5 News, Washington Lt. Governor says 'Franklin Pierce Shouldn’t Have a County Named After Him'”, June 23, 2020.

The News Tribune Editorial Board, “What’s in a Name, Pierce County? A Pro-Slavery, Racist President We Must Reckon With,” The News Tribune, June 19, 2020.

John Hua, “BSU: Special Audio Story from the UW Tacoma Oral History: Founding Stories Project,” February 19, 2020.

“Bringing Newberry Photos to Kentucky,” Kentucky Historical Society, Jan. 12, 2018.

“C23K Symposium Gives First Look at New Information on Civil War Era Kentucky,” Kentucky Historical Society, June 9, 2017.

Luther Adams, “Tipling Toward Freedom: Petitions to Your Excellency,” 2017 Civil War Governors of Kentucky Symposium.

“Zion Hill: Envisioning a Black Future,” Photographing Freetowns: African American Kentucky through the Lens of Helen Balfour Morrison Exhibit, The Newberry Library, 2017.

"Photographing Freetowns: African American Kentucky through the Lens of Helen Balfour Morrison Exhibit, The Newberry Library, 2017.

Michael L. Jones, “Race, Space and Economics in the West End: The Future of Beecher Terrace?” Featured Guest Scholar, LEO WEEKLY, Louisville, Kentucky, May 20, 2015.

Kaitlyn Turner, “Ferguson Shooting Prompts Local Panel on Racial Issues: Rep. Denny Heck Hosts Panel Covering Racial Inequality, and Racism in the Police Force, and Other Issues,” The Pioneer, Oct. 9, 2014.

“The Problem of Police Brutality and Racism in Perspective,” with Dr. Carolyn West, UWT, 2014.

“W.E.B. Du Bois’ One Charge,” UNC Press Blog, October 23, 2014.

“Claiming the South as Home: African Americans and Southern Identity,” UNC Press Blog, August 11, 2014.

“Billie Holiday” Featured Guest Scholar, KEXP Documentaries: Civil Rights Songs with Michelle Myers, Broadcast KEXP 90.3 FM, Seattle, WA, 2010.

Honors and Awards

• iTech Fellow, On-line teaching certification, UWT, Winter-Spring, 2021.
• Kentucky Historical Society research grant for Civil War Governors of Kentucky Digital Documentary Edition, 2016.
• Nominated, UWT Distinguished Teaching Award, 2016.
• Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities, Research Fellowship University of Washington, 2015-2016.
• New York Public Library Short-Term Fellowship, Fall, 2011.
• Nominated, UW Graduate School Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award, 2009.
• Center for African American Urban Studies and the Economy, African American Urban Studies Fellowship, Carnegie Mellon University, 2006-2007.
• Internationalizing the Curriculum, Office of Undergraduate Education, University of Washington, 2006.
• Institute for Teaching Excellence, University of Washington, 2004.
• NEH Summer Institute on African American Civil Rights, Harvard University, 2003.
• Fontaine Fellowship, University of Pennsylvania, 1994- 1999.
• Woodrow Wilson Program in Public Policy and International Affairs, Summer Program in Policy Skills, Princeton University, 1993.
• Woodford R. Porter, Sr. Scholarship, University of Louisville, 1990-1994.


Undergraduate 100-200 Level
• American History I 1607-1877
• American History II 1877-Present
• African American History 1619-1865
• African American History 1865-1945
• African American History 1945-Present
• Introduction to Ethnic, Gender, and Labor Studies

Undergraduate Upper 300 Level
• African American History
• The Making of America

Undergraduate 400 Level
• African American Culture and Consciousness
• African American Religious History
• Black Freedom Movements
• Black Labor in America
• The Black Metropolis
• U.S. History 1945 – Present