Devin Fergus, 2023–24 | National Humanities Center

Devin Fergus (NHC Fellow, 2023–24)

Project Title

The Making and Unmaking of One America: President Clinton’s Initiative on Race

John Hope Franklin Fellowship, 2023–24

Arvarh E. Strickland Distinguished Professor, University of Missouri

Devin Fergus is the Arvarh E. Strickland Distinguished Professor of History and Black Studies at the University of Missouri where he teaches in the departments of History and Black Studies, the Truman School of Government and Public Affairs, and the Trulaske College of Business. His writings have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian, and Slate, among other outlets. He is the author of Land of the Fee (Oxford University Press, 2018), which The Nation designated one of the five most important books by a scholar for understanding capitalism. His first book, Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics (University of Georgia Press, 2009), was named a Choice Outstanding Academic Book. Professor Fergus is also an editor of the Columbia Studies in the History of US Capitalism book series published by Columbia University Press. He is a recipient of numerous fellowships, including from the Mellon Fund (Cambridge University), Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Mellon Foundation (Emory University), the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, Rockefeller Foundation, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Salzburg Global Seminar, and Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK), where he was a Resident and Non-resident Visiting Professor of American Studies from 2018–21. Most recently, Professor Fergus was a Visiting Scholar at the Charles Warren Center at Harvard University, 2022–23.

At the National Humanities Center, Professor Fergus will complete an in-depth exploration of Clinton’s One America (1997–1998): A Presidential Initiative on Race (PIR), which was the last major federal initiative to address racial reconciliation and racial equity. With the post-Cold War as backdrop, this Presidential Initiative on Race, chaired by historian John Hope Franklin, endeavored to provide “a roadmap to the twenty-first century” in its mission to make America “the world’s first truly multiracial, multiethnic democracy.” Knowing how and why the ambitions of the PIR slipped through our collective grasp, and the consequences of this failure, is essential to understand what options for racial progress now remain. This project uniquely incorporates the autobiographical perspective of his coauthor, Dr. Nishani Frazier (Professor of History and Director of Public History at North Carolina State University), who served as the assistant to Franklin during his tenure as PIR chair.

Selected Publications

Land of the Fee

  • Fergus, Devin, and Trina R. Shanks. “The Long Afterlife of Slavery in Asset Stripping, Historical Memory, and Family Burden: Toward a Third Reconstruction?” Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services 103, no. 1 Building Financial Capability and Assets in America’s Families (January–March 2022): 7–20.
  • Fergus, Devin. Land of the Fee: Hidden Costs and the Decline of the American Middle Class. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2018.
  • Fergus, Devin. “The Impact of Student Loans on Black Wealth.” Black Perspectives, December 1, 2017.
  • Fergus, Devin, and Tim Boyd. “Banking without Borders: Culture and Credit in a New Financial World.” Kalfou: A Journal of Comparative and Relational Ethnic Studies 1, no. 2 (2014): 7–28.
  • Fergus, Devin. “The Ghetto Tax: Auto Insurance, Postal Code Profiling, and the Hidden History of Wealth Transfer in America.” In Beyond Discrimination: Racial Inequality in a PostRacist Era, edited by Fredrick C. Harris and Robert C. Lieberman, 277–316. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2013.
  • Fergus, Devin. Liberalism, Black Power, and the Making of American Politics, 1965–1980. Chicago: The University of Georgia Press, 2009.
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