Samuel Kelton Roberts, Jr. PhD
Samuel Kelton Roberts, Jr. is Associate Professor of History (Columbia University Arts and Sciences) and Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences (Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University), and a former Director of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS). He writes, teaches, and lectures widely on African-American history, medical and public health history, urban history, and the history of social movements. His book, titled Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation (University of North Carolina Press, 2009) is an exploration of the political economy of health, urban geography, and race between the late nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century. This periodization encompasses the coinciding eras of both Jim Crow segregation and the period from the bacteriological revolution to the advent of antimicrobial therapies. In this work, Roberts argues that the local politics of race and labor greatly influenced the development of the early public health state, and further locates in this period the roots of modern health disparities.
Dr. Roberts has held several fellowships, including the Thurgood Marshall Dissertation Fellowship; the Schomburg Center for Black History and Culture (New York Public Library) Scholar in Residence Fellowship; a fellowship at the Dorothy and Lewis Cullman Center for Writers and Scholars; and a Career Development Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Roberts earned the degree of AB in History and African-American Studies at the University of Virginia, and his MA and Ph.D. in History at Princeton University.
Roberts is currently researching and writing a book-length project, tentatively titled “To Enter a Society Which Doesn’t Want Them”: Race and Recovery in America’s Heroin Capital. This project explores the social and political evolution of drug addiction “rehabilitation” from at the beginning of the postwar heroin epidemic, to the emergence of methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) in the 1960s, the search for medico-carceral solutions in the late 1960s and 1970s, and syringe exchange programs (SEPs) and other harm reduction efforts in the 1980s-1990s. He has published research relating to this project in Social History of Alcohol and Drugs and elsewhere. Roberts is also the co-editor of the Race, Inequality, and Health book series on Columbia University Press.
In 2013-14, Dr. Roberts was the Policy Director of Columbia University’s newly inaugurated Justice Initiative (now the Columbia University Center for Justice) and was the editor of the Center’s first research publication Aging in Prison: Reducing Elder Incarceration and Promoting Public Safety (2015). Dr. Roberts also is a member of the Mailman School of Public Health’s Working Group on Mass Incarceration and Public Health. In October 2013, on behalf of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS), he organized “Challenging Punishment: Race, the People’s Health, and the War on Drugs,” a two-day public conference featuring academic and non-academic researchers, advocates, and activists, held at Columbia University and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Dr. Roberts is also the host of the podcast People Doing Interesting Stuff (PDIS) – also available on iTunes -- in which he “talks and thinks out loud with special guests, including activists and organizers, writers, artists, social entrepreneurs, public figures, and others about what they do, and how, why, and where they do it.” Roberts’s executive and advisory board memberships have included the Correctional Association of New York, the Alliance of Families for Justice, the Centre for Research in Race and Rights (University of Nottingham, UK), of note magazine, and the Legal Action Center.. He tweets from @SamuelKRoberts (https://twitter.com/SamuelKRoberts).