James Campbell specializes in African-American history and the history of the black African slave trade. He studies the relationship between Africa and America, and the evolution of African American history from the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade to the present day. His research spans the history of the American slave trade with Africa, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights movement.
In his current research, Campbell focuses on historical narratives and storytelling, examining the ways in which societies document and tell about their pasts, not only in textbooks and academic monographs but also in historic sites, museums, memorials, movies, and political movements. Professor Campbell is also interested in the history of American filmmaking.
Professor Campbell has been at Stanford since 2008. He previously worked at Brown University and served as the chair for the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice from 2003 to 2006. He also received the Brown University Undergraduate Council of Students Award for Excellence in Teaching in the 2006-2007 academic year.
Professor Campbell has been a historical consultant for many organizations and publications, including the History Channel, The U.S. Department of Education Teaching American History Grants, the Civil Rights Living Memorial Project, and multiple history books and textbooks, and a documentary film series entitled "This Far by Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys," which premiered on P.B.S. in June of 2003.
Campbell's 2006 book, Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787-2005 (New York: Penguin Press), received the Mark Lyton History Prize from the Columbia School of Journalism and Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history, Middle Passages also won the Lois P. Rudnik Prize from the New England American Studies Association. His first book, Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), received the Carl Sandburg Literary Award for Non-Fiction and the Organization of American Historians' Frederick Jackson Turner prize in 1996.
Professor Campbell was on the Faculty Honor Roll for Teaching at Northwestern University. He was also a Charles Warren Center fellow for American History at Harvard University in 2000-2001 and a Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity fellow in 2003-2004.