I'm a writer and sociologist.
My public writing and research focus on questions of race and place. I write about how places—especially Black communities—change; how those changes are curbed and exacerbated by systems and policy; and how local people explain, contest, and live amidst it all.
In 2021, I joined the University of Virginia as an Associate Professor of Sociology.
Before that, I was chronicling what was happening in the town of Clarksdale, Mississippi, a place most widely known as the "birthplace of the blues" and that has, since 1980, tried to use that title to kickstart local economic revitalization and community development efforts. My book I Don't Like the Blues: Race, Place, and the Backbeat of Black Life tells the story of those efforts and, for the first time, details how local Black folk feel about them. How they feel is in the book's title: they don't like it.
My second book is Ghosts of Segregation, a collaborative photo-essay collection with Washington-based photographer Richard Frishman. Between 2016 and 2022, Rich drove more than 25,000 miles, across the country and back multiple times, taking photos of places and structures that evoke the nation's racial history: theatre entrances that were once reserved for "Colored People," beaches where Black Americans were once prohibited from being, lynching sites, juke joints, jails, Black-owned hotels and resorts, among dozens of others. In 2021, I joined the project, ultimately writing 7 essays that places elements of my own personal story—growing up a Black boy in 1990's rural Mississippi, earning a tenure at the University of Virginia—in the context of the broader histories evoked by the photos.
I am the co-editor of Sociology of Race and Ethnicity, the field-leading (impact factor: 3.55) peer review journal for sociological for research on racism, race, ethnicity, and related topics. In the past, I have helped facilitate the "Mississippi Hill Country Oral History Collective."
My research, teaching, and public sociology have been supported by the National Science Foundation, American Sociological Association, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College (University of Mississippi), and Mississippi Humanities Council, among others; and I have written for local, regional, and national platforms, including Bitter Southerner, CNN, Esquire, Ford Foundation, Veranda Magazine, and Washington Post, among others. I have also written and co-directed two short films.