Rebirth of a Black Studies Scholar

By Watson, Jamal Eric | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, February 17, 2011 | Go to article overview

Rebirth of a Black Studies Scholar


Watson, Jamal Eric, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


Ten years after Karin Stanford gained notoriety for her relationship with Rev. Jesse Jackson, she has rebuilt her life and the Black studies department she leads.

On January 18, 2001, Dr. Karin L. Stanford felt like her world was falling apart.

The media had set up camp outside of her Los Angeles home and stalked her family after civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson confirmed a National Enquirer story that he had fathered a child with Stanford two years earlier.

"I am father to a daughter who was born outside of my marriage," Jackson said at the time. "I love this child very much and have assumed responsibility for her emotional and financial support since she was born."

After Jackson's public admission, old allies turned against Stanford. She was vilified in the media and demonized as a woman out for financial gain.

"I couldn't trust anyone," she tells Diverse.

A decade has passed, Stanford has recovered from the humiliating episode and has gone on to emerge as one of the nation's most prolific Black political scientists. Chair of the pan-African studies department at California State University, Northridge, Stanford has authored a handful of scholarly books focused on African-American politics, race, public policy and social movements, including the recently released African Americans in Los Angeles.

"Dr. Stanford is a superb scholar," says Dr. Charles Jones, founding chair of the department of African-American studies at Georgia State University and the coauthor of an article with Stanford on Black legislative activity in California. "She has a lot of depth in her examination of Black politics."

Stanford's specific research, which focuses on African-Americans in international affairs, was born in the 1980s out of fierce protest and opposition to the apartheid regime in South Africa. At the time, she was a student at CSU-Chico - the first in her family to go to college.

"During the summers, I became politically active," she says. "As a result of my involvement, I wondered more about what African - Americans were doing around the world."

After leaving CSU-Chico, she headed to Howard University in Washington, D.C., to study politics with the late Dr. Ronald Walters, a leading scholar of the politics of race whom she describes as her hero and mentor.

Walters, who gained national prominence for his critical analysis of Black politics, was a close advisor to Jackson, serving as the deputy campaign manager for his 1984 presidential run. At his direction, Stanford focused her dissertation on Jackson's role in international affairs, which evolved into the book Beyond the Boundaries: Reverend Jesse Jackson in International Affairs.

Stanford, a former assistant professor at the University of Georgia and Congressional Black Caucus fellow, went to work in the 1990s for Jackson's Rainbow Coalition office in Washington, D. …

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