Jason Young is associate professor of history and specializes in the art history, religion, and folk culture of the nineteenth-century United States. He focuses especially on African American history and the African diaspora and received his PhD from University of California, Riverside in 2002.

What's it like coming to Michigan?

I spent part of my childhood growing up in Detroit, so coming to the University of Michigan has been like returning home after a long absence. I am deeply impressed and awed by both the faculty and the students on campus. While I am gravely concerned by the recent eruptions of intolerance and hate speech, I am inspired by the poise and perseverance of the many who are committed to building a more inclusive campus.

Can you tell us about your current research?

My current project, To Make the Slave Anew, focuses on this country’s contested and contentious memory of slavery. I study how people from various political backgrounds can rally around imagined, and often false, ideas about the past in order to win political battles in their present-day lives.  

What (non-academic) book are you reading these days?

I am just finishing Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings, a novel about the real-life assassination attempt on the famous reggae singer Bob Marley in 1976. I recently learned that the book will soon be adapted into a feature-length film, so I am hoping that the on-screen version can live up to the hauntingly realistic landscape that James captures in the book.