Nell Irvin Painter

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Nell Irvin Painter
Nell Irvin Painter.jpg
Born (1942-08-02) August 2, 1942 (age 72)
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Alma mater University of California at Berkeley
University of California at Los Angeles
Harvard University
Occupation Historian
Employer Princeton University (emerita)
Known for African American Literature; American History; American Slavery
Spouse(s) Glenn R. Shafer
Parent(s) Frank and Dona Irvin
Website of Historian Nell Irvin Painter

Nell Irvin Painter (born Nell Irvin, 1942) is an American historian notable for her works on southern history of the nineteenth century. She is retired from Princeton University, and served as president of the Organization of American Historians.[1] She also served as president of the Southern Historical Association.[2]


She was born Nell Irvin to Dona and Frank E. Irvin, Sr. She had an older brother Frank who died young. Her family moved from Houston, Texas, to Oakland, California when she was ten weeks old.[3] This was part of the second wave of the Great Migration of millions of African Americans from the Deep South to urban centers. Some of their relatives had been in California since the 1920s. The Irvins went to California in the 1940s with the pull of increasing jobs in the defense industry. Nell attended the Oakland Public Schools.

Her mother Dona Irvin held a degree from Houston College for Negroes (1937), and later taught in the public schools of Oakland. Her father had to drop out of college in 1937 during the Great Depression; he eventually trained for work as a laboratory technician. He worked for years at the University of California at Berkeley, where he trained many students in lab techniques.[3]

Painter earned her B.A. - Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley in 1964. During her undergraduate years, she studied French medieval history at the University of Bordeaux, France, 1962–63. She also studied abroad at the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ghana, 1965–66. In 1967, she completed an M.A. at the University of California at Los Angeles. In 1974, she earned an M.A. and Ph.D. at Harvard University. She returned to study and earned a B.F.A. at Rutgers University in 2009.[2][4] Painter has received honorary degrees from Dartmouth College, Wesleyan University, and Yale University, among other institutions.[5]

Marriage and family[edit]


In addition to many reviews, essays and articles, Painter has written seven books as of 2010:

  • The Narrative of Hosea Hudson: His Life as a Negro Communist in the South, 1979;
  • Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction, 1976;
  • Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919, 1989;
  • Sojourner Truth: A Life, A Symbol, 1996;
  • Southern History Across the Color Line, 2002;
  • Creating Black Americans, 2005;
  • The History of White People, 2010.


  1. ^ "Nell Irvin Painter". Public Affairs Television. February 29, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-29. 
  2. ^ a b "Nell Irvin Painter Home Page". Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  3. ^ a b Frank E. Irvin, Sr. (December 27, 2004). "Frank E. Irvin, Sr. (autobiography)" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  4. ^ "Painter curriculum vitae". Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  5. ^
  6. ^

External links[edit]