Top of page

Biography Martha Jones

Image of Martha Jones

Martha Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, and a Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at The Johns Hopkins University. She is a legal and cultural historian whose research explores how Black people have shaped the story of American democracy and today extends to work on memorial landscapes, family memoir. She also directs the Hard Histories at Hopkins Project which, since 2020, has examined the role of slavery and racism at the Johns Hopkins university and hospital.  She is on research leave during the 2023-24 academic year as a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Germany) and will return to campus in fall 2024.

Her most recent book, “Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All” (Basic Books, 2020), received the 2021 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History. Her 2018 book, “Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America” (Cambridge University Press, 2018), was recognized with awards from the American Historical Association, the Organization of American Historians, the American Society for Legal History, and the Baltimore City Historical Society Scholars. She is also author of “All Bound Up Together: The Woman Question in African American Public Culture 1830-1900” (University of North Carolina Press, 2007) and a coeditor of “Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women” (University of North Carolina Press2015), together with many articles, reviews, and essays. 

Jones is a public historian, writing for broader audiences at the New York Times, Washington Post, the Atlantic, USA Today, Public Books, Talking Points Memo, Politico, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Time and has been an expert consultant for museum, film, and video productions with the Obama Presidential Center, Monument Lab, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery and National Museum of African American History and Culture, PBS American Experience, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Netflix, and Arte (France).  

Jones holds a Ph.D. in history from Columbia University, a J.D. from the CUNY School of Law, and a B.A. from Hunter College. Prior to her academic career, she was a public interest litigator in New York City, recognized for her work with a Charles H. Revson Fellowship on the Future of the City of New York at Columbia University. 

In 2023, she was appointed by President Joe Biden a member of the Permanent Committee on the Oliver Wendell Holmes Devise at the Library of Congress. She is a past co-president of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, and today serves on the boards and committees for the Library of Congress Kluge Center, the National Women’s History Museum, the US Capitol Historical Society, the Johns Hopkins University Press, the CUNY Law School Foundation, the Journal of American Constitutional History, the Journal of African American History, and Slavery & Abolition. 

Selected Works at the Library of Congress

Videos from the Library of Congress