A leading historian of the United States, Nell Irvin Painter is the author of seven books, including Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present (2005), Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol (1996), The Narrative of Hosea Hudson: The Life and Times of a Black Radical (1993), and most recently A History of White People (2010), which traces characterizations of lighter-skinned people, who are today referred to as white, beginning in ancient times with the Scythians.
Nell Irvin Painter received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Bordeaux, France. She spent two years at the University of Ghana in West Africa in the 1960s, an experience Painter says “helped preserve my humanity” before receiving her M.A. from University of California at Los Angeles and her Ph.D. from Harvard University. Prior to joining the faculty of Princeton in 1988, she taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She married business professor Glenn R. Shafer in 1989.
Until her recent retirement from teaching, Nell Irvin Painter was the Edwards Professor Emerita of American History at Princeton University. She received honorary doctorates from Wesleyan, Dartmouth, SUNY-New Paltz, and Yale. After retiring from the Princeton in 2005, she earned a B.F.A. degree from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 2009 and is currently a graduate student in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design.
A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Nell Painter also has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, the Bunting Institute, and the Center for Behavioral Sciences at Stanford. She has served as president of the Organization of American Historians and the Southern Historical Association. She has been a recipient of the Brown Publication Prize, awarded by the Association of Black Women Historians and has been a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction (1976)
The Narrative of Hosea Hudson: The Life and Times of a Black Radical (1993)
Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol (1996)
Creating Black Americans: African-American History and Its Meanings, 1619 to the Present (2005)
The History of White People (2010)
Diane Sawyer and author Nell Irvin Painter discuss what it means to be “white” (ABC News)
Nell Irvin Painter debates and arm-wrestles Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report (Comedy Central)
Big Think Interview With Nell Irvin Painter