Prithi Kanakamedala

Prithi is an Associate Professor of History at Bronx Community College CUNY where she teaches courses in U.S. History, African-American History, and the History of New York City. She is also a faculty member in the M.A. in Liberal Studies Program at CUNY Graduate Center. Her research looks at community-building, race, and citizenship in Brooklyn and New York’s 19th-century free Black communities and her work has been supported by a Mellon/ ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship, PSC Grant, and Gittell Junior Faculty Award.

As a public historian she regularly gives talks, lectures, and professional development workshops to the general public and has worked with a range of cultural organizations including Danspace Project Inc, Place Matters/ City Lore, Brooklyn Historical Society (now Center for Brooklyn History at Brooklyn Public Library), and Weeksville Heritage Center. She is originally from Liverpool, England.

Zoom Life, 2020
Photo taken by Deivid Valdez on behalf of
Bronx Community College Communications & Marketing
Public Lecture at Department of Citywide Administrative Services, New York City, February 2015 with
Wes Gibson, Chief of Staff Administration, Kimara Andre, Special Events Planner, Shameka Boyer, Deputy Commissioner
Public Program “A Time for Seditious Speech” co-curated by Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School and Weeksville Heritage Center, April 2019 with
Michael Rakowitz, Dread Scott, Nabiha Syed, Kazembe Balagun


Current Projects: The DeGrasse Family of the City of New York; 1970s Black Activism at Bronx Community College CUNY; Brooklyn Abolitionists (full-length monograph).

“‘We Must Stand United’: Re-Telling a Radical History of Bronx Community College at the City University of New York.” Rhetoric, Public Memory, and Campus History, edited by Rhondda Robinson Thomas, Liverpool University Press, 2022

Co-author with Obden Mondésir, “A Time for Seditious Speech. Reflections on Weeksville.” Studies into Darkness: The Perils and Promise of Freedom of Speech, edited by Carin Kuoni and Laura Raicovich. Amherst College Press, 2022.

“Plymouth Church.” A People’s Guide to New York City, edited by Penny Lewis, Emily Tumpson Molina, Carolina Munoz. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2022

“‘In Honor of Himself’: Entrepreneurship and Economic Self-Determination in Antebellum Brooklyn, New York.” African American Literature in Transition, 1750-2015, Volume 2: 1800-1830, edited by Jasmine Nichole Cobb and Joycelyn Moody, Cambridge University Press, 2021

The City Amplified: Oral Histories and Radical Archives, a collection of essays from The City Amplified Working Group at the Graduate Center CUNY, co-edited by Prithi Kanakamedala and Allison Guess, New York: Printed at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, 2019

Review of Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim CrowNew York History 100, no. 1 (2019): 169-173. doi:10.1353/nyh.2019.0017

“St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery.” Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance. Catalog. New York, NY: Danspace Project, 2018

“Considered a Citizen of the United States”: George DeGrasse, a South Asian in Early (African) America.” Indo-American Encounters in the Early Republic, edited by Anupama Arora and Rajender Kaur, Palgrave, 2017

“We Must Stand United”: Activism, Achievement, and Community at Bronx Community College https://unitedstandbcc.org

Media & Public Lectures

I’ve commented on the history of slavery, nineteenth-century New York, and Brooklyn and New York’s pre-Civil War free Black communities for a variety of media outlets including BBC World Service, Newsweek, Flatbush + Main Podcast, New York Times, W-NYC, Wall Street Journal, W-ABC 7, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and CBS News New York.

Out of the Box: Brooklyn in 1896
Public Program for Center for Brooklyn History, Brooklyn Public Library, March 2022
A History of DUMBO
Public Program for Adams Street branch, Brooklyn Public Library, February 2021
Black History Is Our History: Exploring New York City’s Role In The Underground Railroad
Segment by Vanessa Murdock for CBS New York, February 2021
Black History Month: Iconic Abolitionist Used His TriBeCa Home As Part Of Underground Railroad
Segment by Aundrea Cline-Thomas for CBS News New York, February 2020
Abolitionism in Black and White?
Public Program with Julie Golia, NYPL, Doc Chat, New York Public Library, September 2020
New York City’s First Free Black Communities
W-NET/ THIRTEEN/ PBS Web Series to accompany The Woman in the Iron Coffin (Secrets of the Dead), November 2018
Black Businesses in Brooklyn
Interview with Julie Golia and Zaheer Ali for Flatbush + Main, a podcast for Brooklyn Historical Society, February 2018
Interview by Matt Wells for “1 in 4 Brooklynites was a slave,” BBC World Service, May 2015

New York City would really rather not talk about its slavery-loving past,” by Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek, April 2015

Post Civil War Brooklyn“, Video Public Program with Dr. Carla Peterson, Brooklyn Historical Society, C-SPAN January 2014


I am an Associate Professor of History at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York, where I teach undergraduate courses in U.S. History, African-American History, and the History of New York City with a focus on material culture and the public humanities.

At CUNY Graduate Center, I am a faculty member of the Master’s in Liberal Studies (MALS) Program, where I teach in the New York Studies concentration with a focus on community-engaged projects. I’ve also team-taught Voices of the City, an interdisciplinary graduate seminar, with Dr. Tarry Hum (Queens College CUNY and CUNY Graduate Center) supported by the Futures Initiative.


Dr. Prithi Kanakamedala
Associate Professor, Department of History
Bronx Community College of the City University of New York
2155 University Ave, Bronx, NY 10453
(e) prathibha [dot] kanakamedala [at] bcc [dot] cuny [dot] edu

Photo Credits: © Brooklyn Abolitionists (Pure + Applied), Weeksville/ Vera List (Rathkopf Photography), Bronx Community College Hall of Fame (BCC Communication and Marketing)