Scholarship & Projects
I am a historian focused on the United States and southern Africa in the 20th-century. My research cuts across questions of race in foreign policy, labor and the workplace, and social movements more broadly. I am also a trained oral historian engaged in public-facing projects and community advocacy.
Diplomacy at Work: The South African Worker, U.S. Multinationals, and Transnational Racial Solidarity (1972-1994)
My book manuscript presents a new social and political history of the anti-apartheid movement. This project, based on an examination of extensive oral histories and multilingual archival materials from the United States and South Africa, complicates the role of corporate governance in South Africa during the late apartheid era. While scholars have studied the anti-apartheid movement from the angle of U.S. corporations and top-down reforms, my work focuses on workers and their efforts to fight apartheid. Employed by multinational corporations and devoted to building international networks, particularly with Black trade unionists and politicians in the United States, these workers created what I call “anti-apartheid worker internationalism.” By leveraging reformist U.S. anti-racism workplace codes of conduct, and by making common cause with an increasingly robust transnational anti-apartheid movement and community solidarity, South African workers across lines of race and class challenged U.S. multinationals and management in both the United States and South Africa. Diplomacy at Work argues that workers and trade unionists in both South Africa and the United States were central to the global anti-apartheid movement and to the unraveling of apartheid in the workplace, using their shared goals to build anti-racist conjunctions across borders.
Recent Scholarship & Awards
“‘An Exercise in the Art of the Possible’: Waging a Battle Against Apartheid in the South African Workplace,” Enterprise & Society, July 2023, doi:10.1017/eso.2023.20.
The Wiehahn Commission, a 1979 internal South African labor reform, accelerated the corporate recognition of Black trade unions, complementing international workplace codes and the burgeoning push for ethically-sound business practices in apartheid South Africa. While U.S. subsidiaries in South Africa did not initially voice support for Black trade unions, many were faced with cascading internal and external pressures to negotiate with these emerging unions. By incorporating the Sullivan Principles, a U.S. code for ethical business conduct, into the broader scholarship on the South African trade union movement, this chapter examines how corporate reforms landed in South Africa, probing the corporate response to worker demands. South African workers were not passive recipients of workplace reform, but rather active participants, shaping the form and direction of U.S. and South African policy.
“People Before Profit? Ford, General Motors & the Spirit of the Sullivan Principles in Apartheid South Africa (1976-84),” Ethnic Studies Review, peer-reviewed academic journal published by the University of California Press, December 2021, http://doi.org/10.1525/esr.2021.44.3.64
Focusing on the automobile industry in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, this article demonstrates how Ford Motor Company and General Motors challenged apartheid through adherence to the Sullivan Principles, while maintaining cordial relations with the capitalist South African government in the late apartheid period. Designed to promote desegregation of the workplace and equal pay for equal work, the Sullivan Principles were a controversial code of conduct for U.S. subsidiaries operating in apartheid South Africa. Leon Sullivan, an African American civil rights leader, unveiled the Principles in March 1977 with the support of U.S. multinationals, including both Ford and GM. Drawing on archival sources from both the United States and South Africa, I trace how these American multinational corporations did not sufficiently allay their workers’ most pressing concerns, nor did they firmly challenge the South African government. The Principles’ shortcomings underscore the disconnect between the anti-apartheid movement’s calls for revolutionary transformation and the American business community’s focus on evolutionary change, thus highlighting the tensions between international capital and South Africa’s racialized labor relations.
Short Academic Articles
“Research Note: Mayibuye Archives & the Cold War in Southern Africa,” Cold War History, peer-reviewed academic journal published by the Cambridge University Press, published June 2022, DOI: 10.1080/14682745.2022.2076347.
Drawing from my experience researching in South Africa, this Research Note provides an overview of the University of the Western Cape Robben Island Museum Mayibuye Archives. This archive is rooted in the liberation struggle in southern Africa and contains a considerable number of historical documents, oral histories and audio-visual materials documenting the global anti-apartheid movement. Located in Bellville, on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, the archive is easily accessible and well worth a visit from scholars of the Cold War in southern Africa, the global Black freedom struggle and international social movements.
"A Postcard from Detroit," Contingent Magazine, November 22, 2022
"Black Internationalism and a Wide View of Leon Sullivan's Work," Scholar Blog, Emory University Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, November 1, 2022.
"Companies Have Long Brandished Socially Responsible Images While Busting Unions," The Washington Post, 4 March 2022.
“Beyond Desegregation: Waging a Battle Against Apartheid in the South African Workplace,” Scottish Centre for Global History, December 2020.
“Corporates and Investors Need to Engage with the US to Halt its Slide into Autocratization,” Responsible Investor, October 2020 (co-authored with Dr. Raj Thamotheram)
“The Sullivan Principles at Work: The Conflicted Activism of Rev. Leon Howard Sullivan,” Scholar Blog, Emory University Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, August 7, 2019
“The United States Anti-Apartheid Movement: Bonus Episode,” Scottish Centre for Global History, Episode 4, 50-minute interview with Dr. Chris Fevre and Dr. Matt Graham, January 2021.
“Black Worker Internationalism and Union Struggles Against Apartheid in American Multi-Nationals,” NALSU Labour Studies Podcast, 50-minute discussion.
Select Awards & Grants
Jefferson Scholars National Fellowship (declined)
Fulbright Fellowship (South Africa)
National Security Education Program David L. Boren Fellowship (South Africa)
Steve & Barbara Mendell Graduate Fellowship in Cultural Literacy, Walter Capps Center
Robert O. Collins Prize for Best First Publication, UCSB History Department
Elings-Wells Dissertation Fellowship, UCSB Graduate Division
Bertelsen Humanities and Social Sciences Research Grant, UCSB Graduate Division