Rhae Lynn Barnes
Rhae Lynn Barnes is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Princeton University specializing in the globalization of American popular culture. She is a historian, public speaker, writer, editor, and onscreen commenter. Her research and teaching focus on the histories of racism, racial formation, gender, sexuality, book history, and cultural representation in North America.
Barnes earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University and B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley. Before joining the Princeton faculty, she held an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Digital Humanities at the University of Southern California’s Society of Fellows where she created an immersive digital humanities study abroad program “Sojourners: Black Popular Culture in Paris Noir from Sally Hemings to Beyoncé,” grounded in global African American, colonial, and cultural studies. Barnes was a visiting scholar at the NEH Summer Institute at the Bard Graduate Center in New York City focused on nineteenth-century American material culture. She is co-founder and editor of U.S. History Scene (ushistoryscene.com), which provides open-access teaching resources to thousands of public schools in the United States through partnerships with documentary filmmakers, university libraries, and special collections. Content on the site has been used by The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, GQ, Smithsonian Magazine, Harvard University Press, California University Press, the Journal of African American History, Slate, Huffington Post, Clarity Films, PBS, CSPAN, MTV, Vice, the United States Census, and in an amicus brief to the Supreme Court of the United States. A vocal advocate for public and multimedia history education, Barnes is executive advisor with Henry Louis Gates Jr. to the four-part PBS documentary series “Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow” (airing 2019).
Rhae Lynn Barnes is currently vice president (president-elect) of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography for 2018–2020.
At Princeton, Professor Barnes is regularly offering an undergraduate lecture course on American Popular Culture, 1800-1970; an undergraduate lecture course on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era or the Rise of Jim Crow to the Jazz Age; and a graduate seminar on cultural history. Barnes will also offer advanced research seminars on the history of reading, writing, illiteracy, and book history in North America; global popular culture and representation; Jim Crow America; the multicultural American West; digital humanities; and American social movements. An abiding commitment to reconstructing the culture and lived experiences of diverse Americans shapes her scholarship and teaching. Professor Barnes fosters a safe classroom where students learn how to analyze and engage with media, historical sites, and objects created by diverse North Americans while thinking critically about race, gender, sexuality, narrative, memory, and their representation in popular culture and technology. Students will often work with collections on campus at Princeton, in local museums, or in New York City and Philadelphia, while learning how to use cutting-edge digital tools to tell stories about the American past.
Darkology: When the American Dream Wore Blackface maps the political, economic, and cultural geography of amateur blackface minstrel shows by laying bare its unstudied bibliographic history. Marketed nationally as local entertainment, the nearly ten thousand published minstrel show plays—the bedrock of this project—are material remnants of white supremacy’s intellectual and cultural life between the Civil War and Civil Rights. This prolific and censored archive reveals the crucial role the United States government played in accelerating, funding, and disseminating blackface minstrel shows in amateur form worldwide. The project has received funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Library of Congress, the Council on Library Information Resources, the Western History Association, the Society for American Music, the Harry Ransom Center, the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia, and the Bibliographical Society of America. An interactive website will be released as a companion to the book.
American Slavery / American Entertainment, a new book project, argues that the imperialist expansion of America’s “peculiar institution” of slave-based capitalism and the rise of American mass media and popular culture—two nineteenth-century stories that are often told separately—were integral to each other’s development. It reveals how slavery operated as a complex form of mass entertainment unto itself.
American Contact: Intercultural Encounter and the History of the Book puts North America and Latin America into direct conversation by foregrounding material and textual objects—books, broadly defined— that reveal new insights about instances of intercultural contact in the Americas and the global relay of knowledge. This interdisciplinary multi-author book is co-edited by historian Rhae Lynn Barnes (Princeton University), art historian Aaron Hyman (Johns Hopkins University), and musicologist Glenda Goodman (University of Pennsylvania). A conference will be held at Princeton University on April 24-25, 2020.
Ph.D. in History, Harvard University
A.M. in History, Harvard University
B.A. Highest Honors in History, University of California, Berkeley (Departmental Citation)
Teaching Certification, Certificate of Achievement in the Practice of Teaching in Higher Education, Derek Bok Center, Harvard University