Ever since he came to Trinity College in 2009, Davarian L. Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies, has seen the value of Trinity’s location in a major city.

“It’s about getting students out beyond the campus walls… doing work, talking to people, asking questions, and listening… and hopefully even acting,” he said.

Today, the Marguerite Casey Foundation named Baldwin a 2022 Freedom Scholar in recognition of his research and his engagement in organizing that advances a racial and economic justice agenda. This award will enable Baldwin to increase his service to social justice, particularly through building out equitable urban communities, work rooted in the Smart Cities Lab, which he founded and directs at Trinity.

Now in its third year, the award provides unrestricted support to leaders in academia whose research can provide critical insight to social justice leaders and whose ideas encourage all to imagine how to radically improve democracy, the economy, and society.

“I am beyond humbled by this honor. It is very rare that the work scholars do to support social movements is recognized, especially within the academy,” said Baldwin. “I feel truly blessed that the Margaret Casey Foundation confirms this kind of work, that pushes beyond mere career advancement and towards true social transformation.”

There are no restrictions to the one-time $250,000 award—it is designed to provide greater freedom to recipients to advance scholarship focused on shifting the balance of power in society to those who have long been excluded from power and its rewards. Recipients of the award are involved in research on social justice topics, including prison abolition, racial capitalism, queer liberation, and more.

“This award will allow me to not only build out but also scale up that work by continuing the foundational research, growing advocacy networks between communities across the country, and developing both legislative policy and campaigns for reparative justice,” Baldwin noted.

Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Political Science Sonia Cardenas praised the foundation’s selection.

“Professor Baldwin is one of Trinity’s most distinguished scholars, challenging the academy to think critically and do better. His scholarship reveals the transformative power of the humanities in the public sphere,” said Cardenas. “That he is a trusted mentor to students and faculty, a leading voice in debates over the role of higher education in America’s cities, and a model for engaged urban citizenship makes him all the more deserving of this national honor.”

Baldwin receives the award alongside nine other distinguished Freedom Scholars:

  • Beth Richie, University of Illinois Chicago
  • Dean Spade, Seattle University
  • Derecka Purnell, Columbia University
  • Jared Ball, Morgan State University
  • Mariame Kaba, Barnard College
  • Noura Erakat, Rutgers University
  • Olúfémi Táíwò, Georgetown University
  • Ruth Wilson Gilmore, City University of New York
  • Sarah Haley, University of California Los Angeles

Since arriving at Trinity College, Baldwin published the acclaimed tome, In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities are Plundering our Cities (Bold Type Books). Kirkus Reviews described book as “a cogent analysis of an urban-growth phenomenon that is rarely done well or equitably.”

In the 2021 book, Baldwin describes a “public good paradox,” calling for a “broad examination of higher education’s growing for-profit influence on our cities.” In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower takes the reader to cities around the nation, from Hartford to Chicago and from Phoenix to Manhattan, revealing the skewed relationship between universities and cities. Baldwin illustrates the issues through interviews with city leaders, college and university service staff, and local activists.

“Colleges and universities have become some of the biggest employers, real-estate holders, healthcare providers, and, surprisingly, policing agents in major cities and college towns across the country,” noted Baldwin in an interview with the History News Network. “I focus on two critical developments: the convergence of interests between universities and cities, and the rise of the knowledge economy.”

Baldwin is also author of Chicago’s New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and BlackUrban Life (UNC, 2007) and co-editor, with Minkah Makalani, of the essay collection Escape From New York! The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem (Minnesota, 2013).

He is currently finishing Land of Darkness: Chicago and the Making of Race in Modern America (Oxford University Press). Baldwin is also developing a digital, video-based Black Intellectual Oral History (BIOH) project for both archival documentation of important stories and virtual mentorship to younger scholars.

At Trinity, Baldwin’s teaching brings together urban and cultural studies, 20th century U.S. history, and African American studies. Baldwin leads professional development workshops for school teachers with the NEH and the organizations Primary Source and Facing History and Ourselves. He also serves as a textbook consultant for McGraw Hill and is currently formulating a video-based learning curriculum for The Great Courses series entitled, How the Great Migration Changed America.

His research, writing, and commentary has been featured in numerous outlets including NBC News, CNN, PBS, SIRIUS XM, The History Channel, NPR, BBC Radio, TIMEWashington PostThe GuardianThe Business JournalsUSA Today, and The Daily Beast. His more recent pieces include, “Why We Should Abolish Campus Police,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (May 19, 2021); “Higher Education Has a Tax Problem and It’s Hurting Local Communities,” TIME (April 7, 2021),“Higher Education’s Racial Reckoning Reaches Far Beyond Slavery,” Washington Post (April 1, 2021), and “What Universities’ Growing Power Means for Cities,” Next City (March 30, 2021). Baldwin’s essay “When Universities Swallow Cities,” was the lead article in the “Cities” special issue of Chronicle Review (Chronicle of Higher Education) in 2017.

In addition to teaching and writing, Baldwin sits on the Executive Council of the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (SHGAPE). He serves on the editorial boards for the Journal of Urban HistoryThe Journal of African American History, and The American Studies Journal. Baldwin is also co-editor of the Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy book series for Temple University Press and was appointed a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.

The Freedom Scholars awards aim to support the scholars’ work that is embedded in community organizing and to highlight the importance of academic thought leadership in social movements and change-making.

“The Freedom Scholars award bridges social justice scholarship and movements,” said Marguerite Casey Foundation President and CEO Carmen Rojas. “With this program, the Marguerite Casey Foundation is putting the power and decision-making in the hands of the scholars advancing progressive movements. That frees scholars to put their ideas into action, to put their theories into practice.”

Header photo by VisionMerge Productions