Samuel K. Roberts
Associate Professor of History and of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health
322 Fayerweather Hall
Phone: (212) 854-2430
Ph.D. — Princeton University, 2001
M.A. — Princeton University, 1997
B.A. — University of Virginia, 1995
Interests and Research
Samuel Kelton Roberts is Associate Professor ofHistory (Columbia University) and Associate Professor of Sociomedical Sciences (Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University). 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, a periodization which encompasses both the Jim Crow era and the period from the bacteriological revolution to the advent of antimicrobial therapies. In this work, Roberts especially addresses the problem of pulmonary tuberculosis, one of the top killers of urban black Americans between 1890 and 1940. Contrary to conventional interpretations of public health history, Roberts argues that the local politics of race and labor greatly influenced the development of the early public health state. He 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 which examines the policy and political history of heroin addiction treatment, 1950s-1990s, tracing urban policy at the beginning of the postwar heroin epidemic, through the adoption of methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) in the 1960s, and syringe exchange programs (SEPs) and harm reduction in the 1980s-1990s. He has published research relating to this project in Social History of Alcohol and Drugsand in a special edited volume in the series Advances in Medical Sociology, andblogs occasionally for theHuffington Post. Along with his faculty membership in Columbia University’s Department of History and in Mailman’s Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Dr. Roberts has affiliations with the University’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS), Columbia University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP), and the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholars Program (HSS), where he served as Coordinator of the RWJ’s Working Group in African-American History and the Health and Social Sciences (AAHHSS).
Dr. Roberts currently is the Policy Coordinator for a newly begun Columbia University Criminal Justice Initiative, involving the schools of Arts & Sciences, Journalism, Law, Education (Teachers College), Nursing, and Social Work.
Roberts is also a member of the Mailman School of Public Health’s Working Group on Public Health and Mass Incarceration, and the organizer of the Columbia University Institute for Research in African American Studies conference titled, Challenging Punishment: Race, the People’s Health, and the War on Drugs (4-5 October 2013).
Beginning in July 2014, Samuel Roberts will be Director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University. More information regarding public lectures and other work may be found at www.samuelkroberts.com. He tweets from @SamuelKRoberts.