William I. Horne, PhD

I am a teacher, writer, speaker, editor, and historian of racial capitalism and Black liberation. I am the co-founder and editor of The Activist History Review and an Arthur J. Ennis Postdoctoral Fellow at Villanova University.

My research focuses on how elites and white supremacists use the state to (re)create racial inequality. My attempts to understand how this process works and how to overthrow it led me to examine three substantial and interrelated areas of systemic power: policing and incarceration, food production and distribution, and state institutions like schools and hospitals. Together, these systems give life to racial capitalism, keeping food and staple prices down to enable low wages (and higher profits) across sectors and workplaces. They limit the opportunities available to racial others and produce an ideology of mental and social aberrance that justifies ongoing exploitation and oppression. Understanding how this larger system operates allows us, much like maroons before formal abolition, to work outside its boundaries while we seek its ultimate destruction.

Black children pose outside of their home on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp, the site of one of the largest maroon communities of Black Americans who escaped enslavement in the U.S. Photo via Harvard Art Museums.

As co-founder and editor of The Activist History Review, I am also very interested in what we term “activist history.” This requires that we understand the ways that the past produces the present and how, by recognizing this production, we can better engage our world and work towards a more equitable future. For me, that means looking at systems of power like schools, courts, jobs, and prisons to show how they have been designed and maintained to benefit the few at the expense of the many. Most importantly, it means being honest about how, while “the way things are” remains largely outside of our control, we decide what our world will become. Seizing that opportunity to decide lies at the heart of activist history.

Although my research and writing are important to me, like many academics, the centerpiece of my work is teaching. In the classroom, I aim to ask difficult questions and create assignments that challenge students to 1) better understand their world and to 2) hone writing, speaking, and organizing skills that will help them shape it. This comes in part from my training and time in secondary education, where I spent four years, as well as my belief that teaching should not only help students acquire new information but also learn how to use it.