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Nishani Frazier


Dr. Nishani Frazier is Associate Professor of History at Miami University of Ohio. Prior to Miami University, she held positions as Associate Curator of African American History and Archives at Western Reserve Historical Society, Assistant to the Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Archives at the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, and personal assistant for Dr. John Hope Franklin, before and during his tenure as chair of President Bill Clinton’s advisory board on “One America”. She recently completed a Fulbright Fellowship in Norway.

Her research interests include 1960s freedom movements, oral history, food, digital humanities, and black economic development. Nishani’s recent book publication, Harambee City: The Congress of Racial Equality in Cleveland and the Rise of Black Power Populism, was released with an accompanying website also titled Harambee City. Harambee City website provides a second layer of book “reading” via online access to maps, archival documents, teacher lesson plans, and oral history interviews. Dr. Frazier has consulted on several digital history grants, including a NEH Digital Start up grant for an interactive app related to Freedom Summer.

Frazier’s other writings include: “To Die For the People: Prophecy and Death in the Rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and Fred Hampton” in Homegoings, Crossings, and Passings: Life and Death in the African Diaspora; “Building a Black Nation: CORE, Black Power, and the Community Development Corporation Movement” in The New Black History; and “A McDonald’s That Reflects the Soul of a People: McDonald’s Corporation, Operation Black Unity, Hough Area Development Corporation, and Black Economic Empowerment” in The Business of Black Power.

Although Frazier’s recent professional experience centers on historical analysis of 1960s black economic development efforts, her personal background began with hands on observation and service for Southeast Raleigh Community Development Corporation in North Carolina. Southeast Raleigh CDC worked to revitalize its target community of low- and moderate-income African-American households by countering the interrelated problems of poverty, unemployment, affordable housing, lacking preservation of cultural identity, and racism. Over its life, the organization constructed moderate-income homes, trained high school dropouts in construction trades, provided daycare services, and helped other nonprofit organizations throughout North Carolina via shared ideas, training, and workshops. Notably, Southeast Raleigh CDC came to be heavily influenced by the past economic development activities of black activists featured in Frazier’s book Harambee City.

You can follow her on Twitter at @SpelmanDiva. For more information on Harambee City or Cleveland’s Black Freedom Movement, see

Recent blog posts:
  • The Return of Black Political Power: How 1970s History Can Guide New Black Mayors Toward a Radical City

    Nishani Frazier
    Truth out

    Nishani Frazier Fellow at the Democracy Collaborative writes for Truth Out about the link between the return of Black Political Power and Cleveland model of community wealth building: 

    The ascent of these new mayors is an opportunity to build real solutions for those left behind by decades of disinvestment and dispossession. Yet radical intentions and hard-hitting rhetoric is not enough to produce radical answers to economic problems. Black mayors must actively incorporate history and make it an essential part of this project to study the successes and failures of a previous generation. Historian Leonard Moore noted that Cleveland's Carl Stokes, the first Black mayor of a major urban city, entered politics to wreak havoc on this "corrupt machine," or rather the political structures that hindered black attainment of power in Cleveland and throughout the United States. However, he quickly learned he "didn't know where the buttons were." Not long into his tenure, Stokes not only found the buttons but began pushing them when he launched Cleveland NOW! The project combined private, state, federal, philanthropic and individual funding into a proposed $1.5 billion plan for housing improvement, employment, urban renewal, youth services and economic revitalization.

    Read more from Nishani Frazier in Truthout