New York University

From the 2023 Award for Scholarly Distinction citation in the 2024 Annual Meeting Awards Ceremony booklet

A pioneer in linking the histories of Africa, the Islamic world, and the Americas, Michael Gomez has demonstrated uncommon breadth and originality over the course of his stellar career. Each of Gomez’s five books has made critical interventions in fields as widely diverse as medieval Africa, Black Islam in the Americas, early African America, and the worldwide African diaspora. His most well-known book, Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1998), examines the evolution of politics, culture, and race in North America to around 1830. More than any other work before or since, Gomez’s text offers an eloquent and convincing history that centers the African past in the distinct context of North America. The book remains a foundational work in African diaspora history, a fulcrum that connects scholarship on African life and culture in the American South to ongoing debates about the making and practice of diaspora.

In addition to his extraordinary scholarship, Gomez has been an inspirational leader and institution builder throughout his career. Most notably, he was the founder of the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD) in 1999 and served as the organization’s president for its first eight years. During that time, Gomez grew the organization into what is now widely regarded as the premier intellectual home for scholars, artists, and activists with interests in the study of the global African diaspora. ASWAD’s biennial conferences have taken place in Africa, Europe, South America, the Caribbean, and the United States. Its 10th conference in 2019 included nearly 1,000 participants from 30 countries. In building ASWAD; producing innovative, field- bending scholarship; and mentoring young scholars, Gomez spearheaded the founding and flourishing of African diaspora studies, today one of the most vibrant interdisciplinary fields in academia.