Influential Black Political Scientists

Influential Black Political Scientists

Our list of influential Black political scientists is as diverse as the field of study. These leaders in the field of political science write about and research topics such as urban politics, social justice, marginalized groups, poverty, and more. These innovators are paving the way for the next generation of political scientists.

Top 10 Black Political Scientists from the Last 30 Years

  1. Condoleezza Rice
  2. Ajamu Baraka
  3. Carol M. Swain
  4. Ron Walters
  5. Wilfred Reilly
  6. Paula D. McClain
  7. Melissa Harris-Perry
  8. Larycia Hawkins
  9. Edmond Keller
  10. Jason Johnson

Curious which schools excelled in creating opportunities for Black scholars and thought leaders in every field? Check out The Colleges with the Most Influential Black Graduates.

According to the Princeton Review, Political Scientists are people who study the structure and theory of government and seek practical and theoretical solutions to political problems. Most current studies and research concentrate on tangible topics such as welfare reform, political campaigns and elections, foreign relations, and immigration. The National Conference of Black Political Scientists is organized to study, enhance, and promote the political aspirations of people of African descent in the United States and throughout the world. It aims to contribute to the resolution of the many challenges that black people confront. Our organization promotes research in and critical analysis of topics usually overlooked and/or marginalized in political science scholarship.

Political representation by Black Americans has experienced steady growth over the past several decades. Kamala Harris was recently sworn in as Vice President of the United States. According to Pew Research, As of 2021, there is greater representation in some areas – 57 House members in the new Congress are Black (not including nonvoting delegates and commissioners), putting the share of Black House members (13%) about on par with the share of the overall U.S. population that is Black. Unfortunately, the gains in House members are not being realized in the Senate or in the number of Black governors in the United States. There are currently only three Black Senators, and no Black governors.

However, the work of influential political science scholars like the ones in our list below are helping to raise awareness of the importance of Black political behavior and public opinion among racial minority groups. The strides they are making in these areas are helping our country to achieve increased racial equality.

Black Political Scientists Making Important Contributions to the Field

Prominent contemporary scholars research and write on topics such as Black political agendas, gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, marginalized groups, racial minority-group politics, urban politics, the political effects of urban poverty, Black political behavior identity, and public opinion. Many Black political scientists combine their scholarship with activism. A few of the scholars we recognize in our ranking below do just that with their work in areas such as:

  • Larycia Hawkins is a champion for solidarity of oppressed groups across religious boundaries. She also explores the relationship of black theology to black political agendas.
  • Cathy J. Cohen focuses on marginalized groups and advocates for social justice.
  • Paula D. McClain focuses primarily on racial minority-group politics and urban politics, but has also been very active in giving a voice to underrepresented and marginalized people.
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25 Influential Black Political Scientists from the Last 30 Years

The Black scholars in our list were identified as highly cited and searched people using our machine-powered Influence Ranking algorithm, which produces a numerical score of academic achievements, merits, and citations across Wikipedia/data, Crossref, Semantic Scholar and an ever-growing body of data.

Find out more about our Methodology.

List is arranged alphabetically

  1. Ajamu Baraka

    1954 - Present (70 years)
    Ajamu Sibeko Baraka is an American political activist. In 2016, he was the Green Party nominee for Vice President of the United States on the ballot in 45 states and received 1,457,216 votes . Baraka currently serves as the national organizer and spokesperson for the Black Alliance for Peace.
  2. Cathy J. Cohen

    1962 - Present (62 years)
    Cathy J. Cohen is an American political scientist, author, feminist, and social activist, whose work has focused on the African-American experience in politics from a perspective which is underlined by intersectionality. She is currently the David and Mary Winton Green Professor in Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago, and is the former Director of the Center for the Study of Race .
  3. Michael Dawson

    1951 - Present (73 years)
    Michael C. Dawson is an American political scientist, currently the John D. MacArthur professor of political science at the University of Chicago. He is also the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture there. He studies the political behavior, public opinion, and political ideology of African Americans, using both quantitative methods and political theory.
  4. Lorrie Frasure

    Dr. Lorrie Frasure is a proud first-generation college graduate, born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. She is an Associate Professor of Political Science and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She serves as Department Vice Chair for Graduate Studies in Political Science. In 2020-2021, she will also serve as Acting Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. In 2015, she became the first African American female and the first woman of color to earn tenure and promotion in the Political Science Department at UCLA.

    Alma Maters: Ph.D. and MA in Political Science from the University of Maryland, College Park, a master’s in public policy (MPP) from the University of Chicago, and a BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

    Academic Website
    Professional Website

  5. Beverly Grier

    Beverly Grier is an Americann academic in the study of child labor Sub-Saharan Africa, and former professor of government at Clark University. She is also the former president of the African Studies Association. She currently serves as Interim Associate Dean for Curriculum & Student Affairs at North Carolina A&T State University.
  6. Tina Maria Harris

    Tina M. Harris, the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication’s Douglas L. Manship Sr.-Dori Maynard Race, Media, and Cultural Literacy Endowed Chair, is the winner of the Francine Merritt Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in Communication. She has publications on representations of African American women in television, racial identity negotiation and family communication within multiracial/multiethnic families, and mentoring and race in higher education.

    Alma Mater: PhD from University of Kentucky

    Academic Website
    Professional Website

  7. Melissa Harris-Perry

    1973 - Present (51 years)
    Melissa Victoria Harris-Perry , formerly known as Melissa Victoria Harris-Lacewell, is an American writer, professor, television host, and political commentator with a focus on African-American politics. Harris-Perry hosted the Melissa Harris-Perry weekend news and opinion television show on MSNBC from 2012 to February 27, 2016.
  8. Larycia Hawkins

    1972 - Present (52 years)
    Larycia Alaine Hawkins is an American scholar, author, and speaker, who in 2013, became the first female African-American tenured professor at Wheaton College, a Christian Protestant liberal arts college. There she served as an associate professor of political science. She now teaches and researches at the University of Virginia, where she is jointly appointed as assistant professor in the departments of politics and religious studies.
  9. Errol Henderson

    1962 - Present (62 years)
  10. Germaine A. Hoston

    Germaine Hoston is a professor of Chinese and Japanese Politics, Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. She is well known for her work on the relationship between Chinese and Japanese thought and political and economic development.

    Alma Maters: PhD and MA in Government at Harvard University, AB in Politics from Princeton University

  11. Vincent L. Hutchings

    Vincent L. Hutchings was a professor in the Department of Political Science at Western Washington University from 1986-2021. In 2015 Professor Johnson received the WWU Philip E. Sharpe Community Engagement Award for his outstanding community service.

    Alma Maters: PhD and MA in Political Science from University of California, Los Angeles, B.A. in Political Science from San Jose State University

    Academic Website

  12. Jason Johnson

    1976 - Present (48 years)
    Jason Johnson is an American political scientist, commentator and writer. He is the author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. Johnson is an associate professor of communication and journalism at Morgan State University. He is a regular political contributor to MSNBC and CNN.
  13. Vernon D. Johnson

    Vernon D. Johnson was a professor of Political Science at Western Washington University from 1986-2021. He served as the Program Director for the Munro Institute for Civic Education for 6 years and was the founding editor in chief of the African Journal of Governance and Development for 7 years.

    Academic Website

  14. Edmond Keller

    1942 - Present (82 years)
    Edmond Joseph Keller, Jr. is an American Africanist. A graduate of Louisiana State University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Keller is a professor in the political science department at UCLA. He is the former Director of the Globalization Research Center-Africa and the James S. Coleman African Studies Center at UCLA. He has taught at Indiana University, Dartmouth College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Xavier University , and the University of California-Santa Barbara.
  15. Paula D. McClain

    1950 - Present (74 years)
    Paula Denice McClain , is a professor of political science, public policy, and African and African American Studies at Duke University and is a widely quoted expert on racism and race relations. Her research focuses primarily on racial minority-group politics and urban politics. She is co-director of Duke’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences, and director of the American Political Science Association’s Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, which is hosted by Duke and funded by the National Science Foundation and Duke.
  16. Marion Orr

    Marion E. Orr is an American political scientist, currently the Frederick Lippitt Professor of Public Policy and a professor of political science and urban studies at Brown University. Orr specializes in education reform in the United States, urban politics, Latino politics, and African-American politics.
  17. Adolph L. Reed Jr.

    1947 - Present (77 years)
    Adolph Leonard Reed Jr. is an American professor emeritus of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in studies of issues of racism and U.S. politics. He has taught at Yale, Northwestern, and the New School for Social Research and he has written on racial and economic inequality. He is a contributing editor to The New Republic and has been a frequent contributor to The Progressive, The Nation, and other left-wing publications. He is a founding member of the U.S. Labor Party.
  18. Wilfred Reilly

    Wilfred Reilly is an American political scientist. He is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Kentucky State University. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Southern Illinois University and a J.D. degree from the University of Illinois College of Law. Reilly’s research focuses on empirical testing of political claims.
  19. Condoleezza Rice

    1954 - Present (70 years)
    Condoleezza Rice is an American diplomat and political scientist who is the current director of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. A member of the Republican Party, she previously served as the 66th United States secretary of state from 2005 to 2009 and as the 19th U.S. national security advisor from 2001 to 2005. Rice was the first female African-American secretary of state and the first woman to serve as national security advisor. Until the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008, Rice and her predecessor, Colin Powell, were the highest-ranking African Americans in the his...
  20. Wilbur Cornelius Rich

    Wilbur C. Rich is an author of many published works and a professor of political science (emeritus) at Wellesley College. Before that he directed the Master of Public Administration Program and was a professor at Wayne State University.

    Alma Maters: Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. from Tuskegee University.

    Academic Website

  21. Evelyn Marie Simien

    Evelyn M. Simien is an author of many published books and a professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut. There she is also Director of the Indigeneity, Race, Ethnicity, and Politics (IREP) Master’s degree program. She was awarded the 2006 Anna Julia Cooper Teacher of the Year Award from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, and the 2007 Teaching Promise Award from the American Association of University Professors.In 2017 she was also recognized as the Faculty Member of the Year by the UConn chapter of the NAACP.

    Alma Mater: PhD from Purdue University

    Academic Website

  22. Robert C. Smith

    1947 - 2023 (76 years)
    Robert Charles Smith is a political science professor at San Francisco State University . He is known for his scholarship on race and politics in the United States, about which he has written several books. The “Black Politics” class he began teaching at SFSU in 1990 proved controversial; students protested the class because it was offered in the political science department rather than the African American studies department, which was interpreted by some students as encroaching on the latter department’s area of focus.
  23. Carol M. Swain

    1954 - Present (70 years)
    Carol Miller Swain is an American political scientist and legal scholar who is a retired professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University. A frequent television analyst, she is the author and editor of several books. Her interests include race relations, immigration, representation, evangelical politics, and the United States Constitution.
  24. Ron Walters

    1938 - 2010 (72 years)
    Ronald W. Walters was an American author, speaker and scholar of African-American politics. He was director of the African American Leadership Institute and Scholar Practitioner Program, Distinguished Leadership Scholar at the James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, and professor in government and politics at the University of Maryland.
  25. Kenny J. Whitby

    Kenny J. Whitby is a professor of Political Science at the University of South Carolina. His research on electoral, minority, and legislative behavior has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, including American Politics Research, the British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, and Social Science Quarterly.

    Alma Maters: Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.

    Academic Website

This list is far from exhaustive; if you have a suggestion for someone to add, please contact us.

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Key Associations for Black Political Scientists

For more the most famous Black scholars of the last 30 years, visit our Influential Black Scholars page. If you want more on Political Science, visit our Political Science page to find more influential Political Scientists, top colleges and universities for Political Science, and more.

Other Influential Black Scholars by Academic Discipline

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