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About Joanne Braxton

Joanne Braxton, Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Professor of the Humanities, joined the William and Mary faculty in 1980. She has been a senior Fulbright Professor teaching doctoral seminars in African American Literature in Germany, France, and Spain. Braxton earned two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University, and much later, a master’s degree in theological studies from the Pacific School of Religion and a subsequent master’s degree from the School of Theology at Virginia Union University. She is the author or editor of several scholarly works, including Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition, and The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. As the poet and playwright Jodi Braxton, she has published an abundance of poetry and essays in journals and little magazines, as well as a collection of her own poetry, Sometimes I Think of Maryland, and authored the play, Crossing a Deep River: A Ritual Drama in Three Movements. A life-long learner, she has also received continuing education in narrative medical practices from Columbia University Medical Center and writing for health at the Duke University Center for Integrative Medicine and completed over 500 hours of supervised clinical ministry (CPE).
Professor Braxton’s awards for teaching, scholarship, and service include the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award, the W&M Alumni Teaching Fellowship and the Outstanding Faculty Member Award from the State Council of Higher Education in Virginia. At W&M, Professor Braxton has been active in new student recruitment, mentorship of junior faculty, consultation on campus-wide diversity issues and curriculum development. She has been especially active in May Seminars and the creation of courses (COLL 200 and COLL 100) for the new College Curriculum. Professor Braxton has also been an authorized member of Campus Ministries United (CaMU) since 2011. She serves on William & Mary’s Lemon Project Advisory Committee and directed the Africana House living-learning community for four years. She also serves on the advisory committee to the university Counseling Center.
Braxton is the founder of the William & Mary Middle Passage Project, which looks toward the upcoming 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the Americas. As a recognized scholarly authority on black Atlantic literature and culture, Professor Braxton publishes and teaches courses on the literature and history of Africans in the Americas. She has written extensively on rituals of remembrance, creating and recreating them in the United States, Germany, Cuba, and the Netherlands. Founded in 1995, the Middle Passage Project formally became a part of the College of William & Mary Africana Studies Program in 2014.
Professor Braxton has been a trustee and a commencement speaker at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College. She has received lifetime achievement awards from Sarah Lawrence College, Umoja Incorporated and the International Black Women’s Congress. She is president of The Braxton Institute for Human Sustainability, Resiliency and Joy, Incorporated, a non-profit organization that promotes the well-being of her former students who have gone into the helping and healing professions and those with whom they come in contact. The work continues. Notably, in 2015, Professor Braxton was appointed as a David B. Larson Fellow in Spirituality and Health at the John W. Kluge Center Fellowship with the US Library of Congress and began her research and writing there in September 2016. According to the Library of Congress website: “The John W. Kluge Center brings together scholars and researchers from around the world to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library's rich resources, and to interact with policymakers and the public.” While on assignment in Washington, Professor Braxton remains connected to W&M educational and public programs both in Williamsburg and in the W&M DC office.
Joanne Braxton is married and is the mother of one adult child.


Present David B. Larson Fellow in Spirituality and Health, Library of Congress ‐ John W. Kluge Center
Present Principal Investigator, College of William and Mary W&M-EVMS Narrative Medicine for Excellence Project
Present Director, College of William and Mary Africana Studies Program Middle Passage Project
Present Frances L & Edwin L Cummings Professor of English & Humanities, College of William and Mary
Present Community Faculty, Eastern Virginia Medical School ‐ Family and Community Medicine


2012 M. Div., Samuel DeWitt Protocor School of Theology, Virginia Union University ‐ Ministry and Social Ethics
2011 M. T. S., Pacific School of Religion ‐ Spirituality and Health
1984 Ph.D, Yale University ‐ American Studies
1974 M.A., Yale University ‐ American Studies
1972 B.A., Sarah Lawrence College ‐ Literature and Writing

Contact Information

Department of English
St. George Tucker Hall
College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, Virginia 23185-8795


Scholarly Works (2)

Media Appearances (10)

Digital History Projects (1)

Poetry (3)

Public Addresses (4)