Nicole R. Fleetwood, author of the award-winning "Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration", will join the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development as the inaugural James Weldon Johnson Professor.

Nicole R. Fleetwood
Nicole R. Fleetwood (photo credit: Sara Bennett, 2021)

Nicole R. Fleetwood, author of the award-winning Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, will join New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development as the inaugural James Weldon Johnson Professor. 

Marking Time (Harvard University Press, 2020), which received a 2021 National Book Critics Circle Award this spring, explores the role art plays in surviving incarceration through interviews with incarcerated people and their families, prison staff, activists, and others. 

Fleetwood, a curator and most recently a professor at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, will be part of the faculty as a tenured professor in NYU Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication (MCC) as well as the James Weldon Johnson Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication.

“We welcome Professor Fleetwood and are honored that she is joining us as the inaugural James Weldon Johnson Professor at NYU,” says Jack Knott, Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of NYU Steinhardt. “Professor Johnson, who wrote the song, ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ was NYU’s first Black professor and already world renowned when he arrived at the NYU School of Education (NYU Steinhardt) in 1934 to teach ‘Racial Contributions to American Culture.’ ” 

“Professor Fleetwood is a world-class public intellectual who has brought much-needed attention to the problems of long-term mass incarceration,” adds Rodney Benson, MCC Department Chair. “Her powerful and incisive analyses of race, visual culture, and media build upon and expand MCC’s strengths in these urgent topics.”

In 2020, NYU announced the creation of the James Weldon Johnson Scholars Program. The James Weldon Johnson Professor is a three-year title that includes $75,000 in research support over this period.

In addition to Marking Time, which also received the Charles Rufus Morey Book Award and the Frank Jewett Mather Award, Fleetwood has penned On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination (Rutgers University Press, 2015) and Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

Fleetwood, whose appointment begins July 1, also co-edited Aperture magazine’s “Prison Nation” issue, which focused on photography’s role in documenting mass incarceration, and is co-curator of Aperture’s touring exhibition of the same name.  

Fleetwood has curated or co-curated exhibitions and programs on art and mass incarceration at the Andrew Freedman Home, the Aperture Foundation, the Cleveland Public Library, Eastern State Penitentiary, MoMA PS1, Mural Arts Philadelphia, the Zimmerli Art Museum, and Worth Rises.  

Her work has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Whiting Foundation, the Art for Justice Fund, Denniston Hill Residency, the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Fleetwood holds a bachelor’s degree from Miami University (Ohio) as well as a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in modern thought and literature from Stanford University.

A photo of Fleetwood may be downloaded from Google Drive (photo credit: Sara Bennett, 2021).

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