Alumna Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch is adding to our history books, one story at a time.
Dr. Jones-Branch, a Charleston native, graduated from the College of Charleston with her B.A. in History in 1994, as well as her M.A. in History in 1997, and obtained her Ph.D in American History from The Ohio State University in 2003. She has been a professor of history at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro ever since. She also serves as the adviser for the African American Studies Minor, as
well as the Major and Minor adviser for the Department of History at ASU.
Most recently, Dr. Jones-Branch was awarded the 2017-18 University Educator of the Year Award by the Arkansas Council for the Social Studies and specializes in teaching about the histories of African-American women, civil rights, and rural history. Crossing the Line: Women’s Interracial Activism in South Carolina during and after World War II (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014) was her first book and was awarded the Letitia Woods Brown Memorial Award from the Association of Black Women Historians in 2014. It was also a finalist for the George C. Rogers Jr. Award from the South Carolina Historical Association.
Her most recent publication, Arkansas Women: Their Lives and Times, is her first co-edited piece with colleague Dr. Gary Edwards, also of ASU.
“This was a very long process,” Dr. Jones-Branch says. “And I learned a lot about what it takes to co-edit a volume and work with diverse scholars. I’m especially grateful to my colleague Dr. Gary Edwards for taking on the struggles of this project with me!”
Arkansas Women: Their Lives and Times documents the experiences of Arkansas women from the state’s earliest frontier history through the late 1900s through fifteen biographical essays and was published in 2018 through the University of Georgia Press.
As an educator and researcher with ASU, Dr. Jones-Branch has been granted numerous awards for her work, including the 2004 Dean’s Research Award, a 2007 Faculty Research Award, and the 2009 Diversity Excellence Award. In 2014, Dr. Jones-Branch won the Arkansas State University Faculty Research award. She is also the first ever recipient of the James and Wanda Lee Vaughn Endowed Professor of History, an endowment that will be awarded annually to an outstanding faculty member in the College of Liberal Arts and Communication.
Dr. Jones-Branch is currently completing her next book project titled “Better Living by Their Own Bootstraps”: Rural Black Women’s Activism in Arkansas, 1913-1965, a project that reflects her curiosity and fascination with the diverse experiences of rural black women extending beyond their work as agricultural laborers in the Jim Crow South.
“Many of them were well-known community leaders,” Dr. Jones-Branch explains. “Some were landowners in their own right. And at least one ran for the Arkansas State Senate as a Republican. These stories have not typically made it into Arkansas history books in a significant way, but they are important to helping us further flesh out and understand the complicated and nuanced stories about black women’s lives in the rural South.”
Through all her academic achievements and successes, Dr. Jones-Branch has carried some valuable lessons with her from her time in Charleston, including the rewards of hard work, and the importance of never giving up when hard times come.
“Learn your craft and learn it well,” She says. “But understand that smart people are always interested in growing, learning, and improving.”
We are incredibly proud and humbled to have Dr. Cherisse Jones-Branch as one of our esteemed alumni here at the University of Charleston, SC!