This year, Concord Academy is thrilled to be welcoming Imani Perry ’90. Currently she is the Hughes-Rogers Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, where she is also affiliated with their Law and Public Affairs and Gender and Sexuality Studies departments, to speak at this year’s commencement.
Perry was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and lived there for a short time before moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her family at the age of five. Perry, an accomplished scholar, graduated from Concord back in 1990 and then received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in American Studies and Literature from Yale University. After graduating from Yale, Perry went on to earn her Ph.D. in American Civilization from Harvard University and her J.D. from Harvard Law School. Prior to teaching at Princeton University, Perry taught at Rutgers School of Law for seven years, where she was awarded the Board of Trustees Fellowship for Scholarly Excellence. She was also a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania and an adjunct professor at the Columbia University Institute for Research in African American Studies and Georgetown University Law Center. Her interests in race, gender, law, and American politics are showcased in what she studied and in her work outside the classroom.
Having appeared on the public radio and podcast On Being with Krista Tippett back in 2014, Perry discussed her opinions surrounding race and American consciousness. Perry is also the author of five books and numerous publications and articles, including Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop, More Beautiful and More Terrible: The Embrace and Transcendence of Racial Inequality in the United States, May We Forever Stand: A History of the Black National Anthem and Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry.
In addition to her marvelous works and extensive experience as both an educator and scholar, Perry gained attention for her arrest in February 2016 by Princeton police. On February 6th, she was pulled over for speeding where she was found to be driving with a suspended license due to unpaid tickets. Perry was subsequently arrested,searched and later released on bail. This experience heavily shaped her views on policing, specifically the connection between police conduct and national conversations about racially motivated mistreatment of Black Americans. Just last year, Perry was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts for creative writing.
Her dedication to understanding the history of Blackness in America and the formation of the patriarchy has had such a significant impact on discussions surrounding gender and race. Perry is a remarkable individual, and we are very excited to hear what she has to share with us, and congratulations to the class of 2021!