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Marcy Sacks

Marcy Sacks, John S. Ludington Endowed Professor of History at Albion College, specializes in African American History and the history of race in the United States. Having entered Cornell University as an undergraduate student with the intention of becoming a lawyer, Marcy discovered her interest in history generally and this field specifically during a classroom experience on the history of slavery. In the small seminar that addressed the persistent questions of race and racism, the students experienced the simultaneous challenge of confronting the legacy of those issues through their lived experience of interacting with one another.  Over the progression of the semester, the group of fifteen, hailing from diverse backgrounds and family histories, gradually learned to overcome their discomfort and insecurity about talking to one another about race. Through these intense conversations, Marcy discovered the transformative possibilities not only of studying history but of teaching.

Her decision to enter academia led Marcy to the University of California at Berkeley to earn her Ph.D., though she maintained her east-coast sensibilities. Partly for that reason, her dissertation research focused on her home state of New York and eventually became the basis for her first book, Before Harlem: The Black Experience in New York City before World War I. She began full-time teaching at Hamilton College in 1997 while still finishing her doctoral program and then joined Albion College’s history department as a tenure-track faculty member in 1999, with the freshly-minted Ph.D. in hand.

Along the way, Marcy picked up a husband and two children. Her travels in South and Central America between college and graduate school had taken her to the beautiful national parks of Costa Rica where she met her future husband. With the help of an orphaned Capuchin Monkey, the two developed a relationship, and Marcy decided that he would make a good souvenir of her visit to this special place. Through his work as an entomologist, Marcy had the opportunity to live for eight months in the small village of Volcano on the Big Island of Hawai‘i enjoying the spectacular beauty of the Kilauea lava flow, swimming with sea turtles on the black sand beach of Punalu‘u, discovering Hawai‘i’s delectable sweet bread, preparing for her doctoral exams, and learning how to be a mother to a new-born baby.

Marcy’s move to Michigan fifteen years ago and new-found love of the Midwest shaped her next research project, a biography of heavyweight boxer Joe Louis that addresses broad questions of race in twentieth-century America. She is currently completing that manuscript (taking only a short break to write this piece!) for a December deadline with her publisher, and she has already begun the research for her third book, tentatively entitled “The Other Side of Reconstruction: Black Northerners Confront the Aftermath of Southern Emancipation.”

But teaching is Marcy’s deepest professional passion. After attending two large universities, Marcy was incredibly fortunate to land a job at a small liberal arts school. She loves the interactive, engaged, creative forms of pedagogy that small classes permit, and she has continued her training in new teaching methodologies throughout her time at Albion. Marcy is currently designing a project-based course that will focus on the use of digital technology. Above all, the small classes allow for close relationships with students, and Marcy is looking forward to having a similar experience with students from across the ACM at the Newberry Library seminar.

Outside of the classroom, Marcy is a marathoner and an avid sports fan. A truly converted Michigander, Marcy supports her local teams: the Detroit Tigers, Red Wings, and so forth. She enjoys puzzles of all kinds, gardening, baking, and cats.

Additional information can be found on her Albion College faculty profile page.