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Cassandra Newby-Alexander, PhD

Associate Professor of History, Norfolk State University

Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander has always tried to integrate teaching, research, and public spheres in the greater service of learning. Her philosophy about teaching is best summed up by writer Robert Hutchins:  “It must be remembered that the purpose of education is not to fill the minds of students with facts... it is to teach them to think, if that is possible, and always to think for themselves.”

Norfolk, Virginia native Newby-Alexander received her BA from the University of Virginia and her PhD from the College of William and Mary in May 1992. Since then, she has focused much or her research and writing on the history of African Americans in Virginia. Her publications have appeared in edited books and major biographical series, such as the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.  Her co-authored book Black America Series:  Portsmouth (2003) was the first to examine the history of African Americans in Portsmouth. She also co-edited a book based on a democracy conference held at Norfolk State University during the 400th Anniversary of the nation’s founding entitled, Voices from Within the Veil:  African Americans and Democracy (2008).

Currently, Dr. Newby-Alexander is working with two other historians on a city-commissioned history of African Americans in Norfolk, Virginia entitled, I Too, Sing Norfolk (anticipated publication in late 2009). She is also completing a book on the history of schools in Hampton Roads with three other authors entitled, Remembering School Desegregation in Hampton Roads, Virginia (2009). 

Her next project, which will be the first one to examine the Underground Railroad in Virginia, is tentatively entitled “Waterways to Freedom:  Virginia and the Underground Railroad.” This project will connect with a March 2009 workshop that focuses on the Underground Railroad in Hampton Roads, sponsored by Norfolk State University and the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Shortly after Newby-Alexander joined the faculty at Norfolk State University (NSU) in 1992, she was selected as “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.”  By the year 2000, she was awarded Multiple Year Honoree for “Who’s Who” which she has received each year since. Moreover, she was selected by in 2005 American Legacy magazine as one of the nation’s top teachers in African American history at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU).

Since arriving at NSU, Dr. Newby-Alexander has been a pioneer in the application of technology in teaching history. From 1993 to 1995, she co-created televised courses for African American and American History surveys. In 1999, she created the digitally-based history project, “Race, Time, and Place: African Americans in Tidewater Virginia.”

To enhance her research interests and university service to students, Newby-Alexander has received grants totaling over $250,000. She is also working as the oral historian for the Supreme Court of Virginia, documenting the history of the court’s retired justices and lawyers who played roles in the evolution of the court and Virginia’s judicial history in the 20th century.

In addition to her grant and scholarly activities, she is civically active, serving on numerous community boards (including the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the Historical Commission of the Supreme Court of Virginia, and the Norfolk Sister City Association), making historical presentations to local schools and community organizations, and appearing on local television and radio programming about the United States, Hampton Roads, and local African American history.

Experience the Exhibit

The Color in Freedom Event and Activities were co-sponsored by University of Maryland University College and the David C. Driskell Center.

David C. Driskell Center