The American government, corporations and civil society are forever tumbling into better futures — hopefully transcending the limitations of the day into richer, brighter and more just tomorrows. This transcendence, though, is elusive and in the realm of racial justice, progress in the long term is characterized as much by setbacks and intransigence as it is by substantial gains. Two steps forward; one step back; one step sideways; one step back. Is this good progress? Can racial prejudice and its myriad consequences in American society actually be overcome? Deep currents and related recent turns in African American history offer useful perspective (for individuals and institutions) in coming to terms with these questions and in grappling with the exigencies of effectively addressing racism in American society.
Alexander Byrd was appointed vice provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in July 2020. In that role, Byrd provides high-level strategic leadership for diversity initiatives and coordinates offices across the campus to help create one point of responsibility for all programs and efforts around diversity. Byrd also is an associate professor of history. His area of expertise is Afro America, especially Black life in the Atlantic world and the Jim Crow South. Byrd has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University and the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. He is a member of the American Historical Association and a life member of the Southern Historical Association. From 2016 through 2019, Byrd served on the council of Omohundro Institute.