Cord Whitaker, Ph.D. is a Philadelphia native who fell in love with Chaucer as an undergraduate at Yale. The son of an editor and a nonprofit president, Cord has had a way with words since he took on his first acting role in fourth grade.

Today, Cord writes, researches, and teaches on medieval English literature and the history of race. Assistant professor at Wellesley College, he inspires students through his keen ability to see the practical applications of intellectual inquiry.

Cord’s book entitled Black Metaphors: How Modern Racism Emerged from Medieval Race-Thinking is now available with the University of Pennsylvania Press. The book argues that the late medieval Christian reception of classical rhetoric informs and directs the process by which blackness and whiteness become metaphors for sin and purity in English writing. He contends that these metaphors are central to the development of race and racism.

Cord is also hard at work on another book titled The Harlem Middle Ages: Color, Time, and Harlem Renaissance Medievalism. In it, he argues that Harlem Renaissance writers and intellectuals, from W.E.B. Du Bois to Claude McKay, from Jessie Redmon Fauset to Langston Hughes, actively and radically deployed nineteenth- and early twentieth-century ideas of the Middle Ages to advance their movement’s clarion call for African Americans’ equal claim to America’s past—including its supposedly white medieval English pre-history.

Dr. Whitaker regularly writes and speaks on race, literature, rhetoric, and politics in venues ranging from the annual meeting of the Medieval Academy of America to the publications of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s Institute for Global Affairs.

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