Tyler Stovall, renowned professor of history and former dean of the humanities, dies at 67


Tyler Stovall, renowned historian, professor and former dean of the humanities at UC Santa Cruz, died on December 10, 2021 at his New York home. He was 67 years old.

Stovall is the author of 10 books and various articles on the history of modern France, with an emphasis on work, colonialism, race, with his latest—White Freedom: The Racial History of an Idea—published in early 2021. Stovall was a faculty member in the Humanities Division at UC Santa Cruz for 13 years, including three years as Chairman of the History Department and Rector of Stevenson College. His tenure as Dean of Humanities at UC Santa Cruz lasted from 2014 to 2020.

“An insightful scholar and author dedicated to social justice and the advancement of minority scholars, Tyler has touched the lives of countless students, faculty and staff during his nearly two decades on our campus,” Chancellor Cynthia Larive, Campus President and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer said in a joint campus post, “We knew Tyler as a skilled educator and as a caring, generous and kind colleague. He will be sorely missed. ”

In addition to his time at UC Santa Cruz, Stovall’s long and distinguished career has led him to serve as President of the American Historical Association and Visiting Professor at the University of French Polynesia in Tahiti, as well as to occupy teaching positions at Ohio State University and as Professor of French History and Dean of the Undergraduate Division of the College of Letters and Sciences at UC Berkeley. At the time of his death, Stovall was Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Fordham University in New York.

“A man of deep conviction and keen insight, Tyler was a great mind, a big heart, and a kind and generous colleague,” Joseph M. McShane, SJ, president of Fordham University, said in a statement. “He arrived at Fordham in July 2020 and, during his all too brief tenure, brought tremendous acumen, energy and intellectual seriousness to the role. He was an experienced and knowledgeable administrator, as well as a highly regarded historian and public intellectual with a staunch commitment to social justice and the advancement of minority academics.

Stovall was among the first African Americans in the United States to come to prominence as an expert on European history, and he provided encouragement and mentorship to other minority academics. He has spoken eloquently throughout his career about the importance and value of diversity, noting that while people often talk about diversity as being important to marginalized communities, it is something that benefits all of us. “Being exposed to people from different backgrounds, being able to interact with people with different experiences is something we all learn from and it improves all of our lives,” he said in a short video on excellence and diversity produced by Fordham University earlier. This year.

Stovall was born September 4, 1954 in Gallipolis, Ohio, to parents Tyler and Barbara Stovall. Her father was a child psychologist and her mother ran the South Side Settlement House, a community center in Columbus, Ohio. Both of Stovall’s parents were active in the growing civil rights movement, with activists and guests from their local NAACP chapter regularly visiting their home. Their efforts inspired Stovall’s own political activism, including joining a race relations club at his public high school and giving his first public speech against the Vietnam War at the age of 18.

Stovall attended Harvard, graduating cum laude with a degree in history. He continued to participate in anti-war and anti-racist protests and was, at one point, assaulted in a public street with acid sprayed on his face. Fortunately, this did not cause any physical damage. He moved from Harvard to graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he reduced his interest in European history to modern French history under the tutelage of renowned scholar Harvey Goldberg.

Stovall quickly won awards and grants that allowed him to continue his research into the working-class neighborhoods of the Paris suburbs, particularly the work done to turn citizens frustrated with sanitation and water systems into a constituency base. dynamic. This resulted in his 1984 thesis, “The Urbanization of Bobigny,” which was eventually revised and published in book form under the title The rise of the Parisian red belt by the University of California Press in 1990.

After earning his doctorate in modern European / French history in 1984, Stovall continued his research for his thesis, earning a scholarship that took him to UC Berkeley. It was there that he met Denise Herd, an academic colleague whom he married in 1988. In the same year, Stovall held a position in the history department at UC Santa Cruz where his classes focused on breed. and ethnicity in Europe and modern France.

In 1996, Stovall caused a sensation with the publication of his book Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light, a work that has explored the lives of many black American writers, artists and performers whose work flourished after emigrating to France in the 20th century. The book has been hailed as “an engaging chronicle of African American life in Paris since the dawn of the jazz era”, by Kirkus Reviews. The book also served as an essential source for Myth of a color blind France, a 2020 documentary film for which Stovall was interviewed.

His most recent book White Freedom: The Racial History of an Idea has earned Stovall even more attention and praise. Many critics have linked the theme of the book, which, as Stovall writes, “to its extreme freedom can be and historically has been a racist ideology”, with the January 6 attack on the US capital. “White freedom has a lot to tell us… about how racism has been built into so many of our systems and institutions, and how what we see as freedom is not really freedom, ”Brock Kingsley wrote in a article written for Chicago Book Review.

“For me, Tyler must be remembered as an academic who firmly believed that writing and teaching history was a political act,” said Michael Vann, professor of history and Asian studies. at California State University, Sacramento, who studied under Stovall for his Doctorate at UC Santa Cruz. “Throughout his long and dynamic career, Tyler has used his ground-breaking research, critical analysis and engaging lectures as weapons in the fight for social justice. Despite studying some of the worst aspects of human behavior, he has always remained optimistic and argued that a better world is possible and that education is central to that goal. I am heartbroken to lose him as a friend and mentor, but also as a role model in our unfinished struggles.

In addition to his wife, Denise Herd, Tyler Stovall is survived by their son, Justin; and a sister, Leslie Stovall. Information on services will be provided when available.


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