Professor Kate Dossett


African American History; Black Theatre History; Histories of Women, Gender & Sexuality; U.S. History; The Harlem Renaissance; Feminist Archives

I joined the University of Leeds in 2003. My research and teaching focuses on race and gender in the nineteenth and twentieth century United States.

My two main areas of interest are Black Cultural History and Gender history. My latest book, Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal (University of North Carolina Press, 2020) explores the wealth of Black theatre manuscripts created by Black Performance Communities in 1930s America. Previous projects have explored Black women’s political and cultural networks in the first half of the twentieth century including my prize-winning book Bridging Race Divides: Black Nationalism, Feminism, and Integration in the United States, 1896-1935 (University of Florida Press, 2008) 

Current projects examine how changing ideas about race and gender shape how we do history and the stories we choose to tell. My new project, “Black Cultural Archives and the Making of Black Histories” examines how the collection of Black cultural archives by the British and U.S governments in the early twentieth century shapes access to and knowledge production about black history and heritage today. A related, and ongoing project examines the making of feminist history and archives in Britain and the United States.You can follow this project on twitter @feministarchive and on the website Feminist Archives, Feminist Futures (FAFF)

I have supervised over 10 PhD projects to completion on Black Americans’ Animal Advocacy;  Motherhood and Protest, White Anti-Racism Activism, Women's Reproductive Health Activism, Black Internationalism, Black Power, Immigration Restriction, Working-class women's sexuality and fashion and masculinity. I currently supervise projects on Coloured Cosmopolitanism on the Pacific Coast, 1918-1941; The Underground Press; Black and Latinx Activism in Los Angeles, 1978-1996

I have previously served as Director of Impact in the School of History and am passionate about finding new ways to co-produce knowledge with theatres, museums, schools and other external partners. Most recently I have worked with the British LIbrary on a series of wikithons and staged readings of plays by Black theatre makers to amplify the work and expand our collective knoweldge of the history of Black theatre making in Britain. Other  projects include work with  National Theatre, BBC Radio 4 ( "Shirley Chisholm" and Woman's Hour) Leeds City Museums, Feminist Archive North and the Glasgow Women's Library

Research interests

Black Cultural Archives and the Making of Black History

My current research examines how the collection of Black cultural archives by the British and U.S governments in the early twentieth century shapes access to and knowledge production about black history and heritage today. Supported by the Independent Social Research Foundation and British Library Eccles Centre Fellowship, the project explores the relationship between Black British and African American theatre by examining Black theatre manuscripts collected by the state. The Lord Chamberlain’s Office in Britain and the FBI in the United States collected Black theatre manuscripts for the purpose of surveillance and censorship of Black Arts. Focusing on Black theatre manuscripts collected between 1900 and 1948 raises questions about the geographical and chronological parameters which shape contemporary Black theatre. Modern Black drama is usually dated to after Windrush in the U.K and the Black Power movement in the United States. However Black theatre manuscripts in state collections suggest Black dramatists wrote and staged plays that crossed borders, troubled white government officials and inspired a radical Black theatre tradition before 1948.

Radical Black Theatre   

This British Academy funded project explores how and why black theatre became such an important forum for black political debate in the 1930s. It examines black theatre manuscripts as they were written, debated and performed by black theatre troupes in the 1930 and includes both black authored manuscripts written for and performed by the “Negro Units” of the Federal Theatre such as Theodore Ward’s Big White Fog, as well as white-authored race dramas such as Haiti which were remodelled and produced by black troupes and communities.  This research informed the National Theatre's workshop on African American Playwriting in the 20th century and is the subject of my new book entitled Radical Black Theatre in the New Deal  which was published in February 2020. 

Feminist Archives, Feminist Futures (FAFF)

An international and collaborative project, Feminist Archives, Feminist Futures is concerned with gendered histories of archives and their relationship to history making and feminist activism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In particular it is interested in the histories of Women’s Libraries and Feminist Archives in shaping women’s lives both in the past and in the future. Recent projects and events include: Archiving Women in Film & TV

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Professional memberships

  • British Association of American Studies
  • Women in American Studies Network
  • Historians of Twentieth Century United States
  • American Theater and Drama Society
  • African American Intellectual History Society

Student education

Undergradute teaching focuses primarily on the histories of race and gender in the United States from emanicipation in 1865 to the election of Barack Obama as President in 2008 and includes a women’s history course. I also teach a year long module on the Harlem Renaissance, which examines the flowering of Black Arts in the 1920s. 

At masters level I teach on the MA in Race and Resistance and research methods and theoretical core modules for the programme.

I welcome research students interested in any aspect of gender and race in nineteenth and twentieth century U.S. history and American studies including: Black Cultural Studies; Women’s and Gender History, histories of feminism; Black Internationalism; Black Radicalism; the Harlem Renaissance; American Communism, the New Deal and Black Theatre history. I an also interested in supervising research projects on the histories of race, women, gender and sexuality in Britain and the history of feminist archives.


Research groups and institutes

  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>