View of Washington Square Park from the south towards the fountain and arch

James Weldon Johnson Professorship

James Weldon Johnson using an old-timey telephone

Credit: James Weldon Johnson and Grace Nail Johnson Papers; Yale Collection of American Lit­er­a­ture Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

James Weldon Johnson was NYU’s first Black professor, but he is notable for so many other accomplishments including civil rights activist, writer, composer, politician, educator, lawyer, and one of the leading figures in the creation and development of the Harlem Renaissance. In his honor, and to recognize scholarship with far-reaching impact in the areas of social justice, inequality, criminal justice reform, and related topics, the University established the James Weldon Johnson Professorship in 2020. The Professorship offers $25,000 per year for three years in research support. James Weldon Johnson Professors are selected by a distinguished committee and are chosen for the positive impact of their work on society.


Alrick Brown

Assistant Professor, Tisch School of the Arts

Education is Alrick’s first calling, but his commitment to social, political, and economic justice is part of his love for storytelling, which he teaches through filmmaking and writing.

Paula Chakravartty

Associate Professor, Gallatin School of Individualized Study and Steinhardt

Paula teaches political econ­o­my of media and technology with a dual appoint­ment at NYU Gallatin and at Stein­hardt’s Department of Media, Culture and Commu­ni­ca­tion. Her research focuses on race, colonialism and capitalism, and global media infrastructures, as well as on migrant labor mobility and global justice.

Stephanie Cook

Assistant Professor, School of Global Public Health

Stephanie’s research focuses on understanding and addressing the health needs of disadvantaged youth transitioning to adulthood. She teaches these themes through biostatistics and global behavioral health. 

Alina Das

Professor, School of Law

Alina teaches law, and co-directs the law school’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, where she works with students to advocate, both locally and nationally, for immigrant rights.

Nicole Fleetwood

Professor, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, & Human Development

Nicole is the inaugural James Weldon Johnson Professor as well as a MacArthur Fellow. Among her many talents are writer, curator, and art critic, with expertise in contemporary Black diasporic art and visual culture, photography studies, carceral studies, and poverty studies. She teaches Media, Culture and Communication at Steinhardt, where James Weldon Johnson began teaching nearly 90 years ago.

Reginé Gilbert

Assistant Professor, Tandon School of Engineering

Reginé has a strong belief in making the world a more accessible place that starts and ends with the user. She teaches user experience, inclusive design and immersive design at Tandon.

Ernest Gonzales

Associate Professor, Silver School of Social Work

Ernest studies how we age in the U.S., where he believes society aspires for justice and equity, but practices systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and ageism. He is a Senior Fellow of the NYU Aging Incubator, an initiative bringing together faculty and students from all disciplines involved in the study of aging.

Natasha Iskander

Professor, Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

Natasha is a migration scholar, captivated by migration’s potential to produce political and social action. She studies links between climate change, migration, and the future of work, and teaches Urban Planning and Public Service.

Alisha (Jonesy) Jones

Assistant Professor, College of Arts & Science

“Jonesy” joins NYU’s department of chemistry in winter 2023, with an expertise in the structural dynamics of long noncoding RNAs, and how they are linked to specific biological processes and disease.

Ann Morning

Professor, College of Arts & Science

Ann is a sociologist and demographer whose work probes racial and ethnic classification as well as beliefs about racial difference. Her research includes how science influences the way people conceptualize race.