- Born and raised in Trinidad, Arnold Rampersad is a renowned biographer, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, and Stanford University’s Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in the Humanities. In 2013, he received an Honorary Doctor of Letters Degree from Columbia University and a Centennial Medal from the Graduate School of Arts and Science of Harvard University.
- Rampersad has stated: "I was drawn to biography because I saw the African-American personality as a neglected field, despite the prominence of race as a subject in discussions of America. African-American character in all its complexity and sophistication was, and still is, by and large, a denied category in the representation of American social reality." According to Harvard’s Centennial Citation, "There is no other scholar who has done more to undo that denial, to assert the grace and the terrifying complexity of the American experience, than Arnold Rampersad."
- Rampersad began his career as a biographer at Harvard, where he wrote his dissertation on W. E. B. DuBois. Most recently, he published Ralph Ellison, a biography of the novelist (1914 - 1994). His other books include The Art and Imagination of W.E.B. DuBois (1976); The Life of Langston Hughes (Vol. I, 1986; Vol. II, 1988; Pulitzer Prize finalist); Days of Grace: A Memoir (1993), co-authored with Arthur Ashe; and Jackie Robinson: A Biography (1997). In addition, Rampersad has edited several volumes including Collected Poems of Langston Hughes; the Library of America edition of works by Richard Wright (2 vols.), with revised individual editions of Native Son and Black Boy; and Slavery and the Literary Imagination (as co-editor with Deborah McDowell). Rampersad was also co-editor, with Shelley Fisher Fishkin, of the Race and American Culture book series published by Oxford University Press.
- Rampersad has also enjoyed an illustrious career as an educator, teaching nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature – with a focus on topics including Southern literature, autobiography, race and American literature, and African-American literature.
- From 1974 to 1983, Rampersad was a member of the Stanford English Department – with a year spent at Harvard as Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Afro-American Studies (1978-79). In 1983, he resigned from Stanford to accept a position at Rutgers University. In 1988, he became the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English at Columbia University. In 1990, he became the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and Director of American Studies at Princeton University; in 1993, Princeton appointed him Director of African-American Studies as well. In 1998, he returned to Stanford as the Sara Hart Kimball Professor in the Humanities and a Professor in the Department of English – and from 2003-2006, he also served as Stanford’s Senior Associate Dean for the Humanities. In 2008, he assumed his current role as Stanford’s Sara Hart Kimball Professor Emeritus in the Humanities.
- Rampersad has received numerous honors for his work. A MacArthur Foundation Fellow from 1991 to 1996, he has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including fellowships from both the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations. Along with his Ph.D. from Harvard, he holds several honorary doctorates; he is also an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. In addition to his recent awards from Harvard and Columbia, he has received the Howard T. Behrman Medal for Distinction in the Humanities from Princeton University; the Langston Hughes Medal (for distinction in literature) from City College of New York; and the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Obama at the White House in 2011.
Scholar / Advisor
The James Baldwin Project
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