Keona K. Ervin

Keona K. Ervin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
308 Read Hall
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Research Area: 
Black Women’s History, Black Freedom Movement Studies, U.S. Labor and Working-Class History

Ph.D. Washington University 
M.A. Washington University 
B.A. Duke University 


St. Louis native Keona K. Ervin is Associate Professor of African-American History and Affiliate Faculty of Black StudiesWomen's and Gender Studies, and Peace Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia. A Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow advised by Paula J. Giddings and the late Dr. Raymond Gavins, she earned a B.A. from Duke University with a double major in History (with honors) and African and African American Studies. Advised by the late Dr. Leslie Brown and Dr. Andrea Friedman, she completed doctoral study at Washington University in St. Louis where she earned a Ph.D. in History. Prior to joining the MU faculty, Ervin was Consortium for Faculty Diversity Post-Doctoral Fellow and Lecturer in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies and History at Bowdoin College and Assistant Professor of History and Africana Studies at Luther College.

A Center for Missouri Studies Faculty Fellow at the State Historical Society of Missouri, Ervin is the author of Gateway to Equality: Black Women and the Struggle for Economic Justice in St. Louis, which was published by the University Press of Kentucky as a title in the Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century series, which is edited by Steven F. Lawson, Cynthia G. Fleming, and Hasan Kwame Jeffries. In 2018, Gateway to Equality won the State Historical Society of Missouri's Missouri Book Award for superior original scholarship in a book pertaining to the history of Missouri and its people. It was named one of The Best Black Women's History Books of 2017 in Bitch Media and one of Six Notable New Books on Black Women's HIstory in the Huffington Post. The University Press of Kentucky will publish the paperback edition of Gateway to Equality in 2019.

A recipient of the Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (2015), an Arts and Sciences Faculty Fellowship from the University of Missouri-Columbia (2015), and the Huggins-Quarles Dissertation Award from the Organization of American Historians (2008), Ervin has published peer-reviewed articles, reviews, and think pieces in International Labor and Working-Class History, Journal of Civil and Human RightsSouls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society, New Labor Forum, Los Angeles Review of Books, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History, Journal of Southern History, and Journal of American Ethnic History

Ervin’s teaching interests include Black women's history, Black freedom movement studies, U.S. labor and working-class history, urban history, and public history. She teaches courses such as The Wire: Race, Urban Inequality, and the “Crisis” of the American City, Black Freedom Movement, and African-American History. She led a tutorial on the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the 19th Smithsonian Institution museum. The class joined nearly 12,000 visitors on the museum's opening day. Ervin is the winner of two campus-wide teaching awards: the Provost's Outstanding Junior Faculty Teaching Award and the Maxine Christopher Shutz Award for Distinguished Teaching. At the Missouri History Museum, she leads summer workshops on the St. Louis civil rights movement for K-12 educators.

Ervin co-curates a lecture series, The African-American Experience in Missouri, which brings a host of scholars and subject-matter experts to campus to address Black historical experiences from the earliest period of statehood to the present.

She serves on the Missouri Historical Society's LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee and the Board of Directors of the Labor and Working-Class History Association, The Black Midwest Initiative, and Missouri Historical Review

Ervin is a member of the following organizations: African American Intellectual History Society, American Studies Association, Association of Black Women Historians, Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Labor and Working-Class History Association, Organization of American Historians, Southern Labor Studies Association, and Working-Class Studies Association.

Recent Publications: 

Gateway to Equality: Black Women and the Struggle for Economc Justice in St. Louis. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2017. 

"We Rebel: Black Women, Worker Theater, and Critical Unionism in Wartime St. Louis,” Special Issue: Black Women’s Labor: Economics, Culture and Politics, SOULS: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture and Society 18, no. 1 (January-March 2016): 32-58. 

“For Dignity and Power: Black Women’s Political Leadership in Postwar St. Louis,” Journal of Civil and Human Rights, 1, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2015): 135-157.

“'Breaking the ‘Harness of Household Slavery’: Domestic Workers, the Women’s Division of the St. Louis Urban League, and the Politics of Labor Reform during the Great Depression,” International Labor and Working-Class History, no. 88 (Fall 2015): 49-66.



          African-American History

          Authoritarianism and Democracy

          Black Freedom Movement, 1955-1973

          Survey in U.S. History since 1865

          African-Americans in the Twentieth Century

          The Wire: Race, Urban Inequality, and the “Crisis” of the American City

          The National Museum of African American History and Culture (Honors College)

          Seminar in African-American History (graduate)

          Readings in African-American History (graduate)


          Mary Beth Brown 

          Andrew Olden

          Michael Olson


          Andrew Olden,“‘At the Edge of a Dream’: The Mismanagement of Pruitt-Igoe, 1950-1980,” 2017.

          Michael Olson, "Red Lion in Winter: The Life and Times of Claude M. Lightfoot," 2018.                    

          Saeda Aljazara


          Erielle Jones (McNair Scholar), “Fly Like an Eagle: The Equal Rights Amendment in the Missouri Senate, 1975-77,” 2018

          Andrew Hutchinson, “Black Power and White Radicals: Race and Student Movements at the University of Missouri,” 2017              

          Emma McIntyre, “An Old Era in a New Decade: Women’s Organizations & the ERA in St. Louis, 1972-1980,” 2015