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Noliwe Rooks

Associate Professor

Triphammer Rd, 310, Africana Ctr, Room 207

Educational Background



Professor Rooks is an associate professor in Africana Studies and Feminist, Gender, Sexuality Studies. An interdisciplinary scholar, she works on the racial implications of beauty, fashion and adornment; racial inequality in education; race, food and the politics of the city, and Black women's studies. Her work explores how race and gender both impact and are impacted by popular culture, social history and political life in the United States.

The author of three books, she received her B.A. from Spelman College where she majored in English and her M.A. and PhD degrees in American Studies from the University of Iowa. The author of three books and numerous articles and essays, Rooks has received funding from organizations such as the Ford Foundation and the Woodrow Wilson School Educational Research Center to aid in her research into issues surrounding race-based inequality, economics and education. She lectures frequently on such topics at colleges and universities around the country and is a frequent contributor to popular publications such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, Time Magazine and The Hill.

Rooks’ next book, tentatively titled, Cutting School: Apartheid Education and the Big Business of Unmaking Public Education is forthcoming from The New Press. Her current research, for which she has received a Kaplan Family Distinguished Faculty Fellowship Award and a residential faculty fellowship from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, will explore the issues of race and food justice in the United States.

Research Focus

I am currently working on a book project about the profit-driven connections between business interest in the education sector, and the necessity of high levels of racial and economic segregation for necessary for success. It argues that there is a cycle that appears with regularity in which powerful interests plunder, or come up with educational strategies that effectively funnel public education dollars earmarked for the poorest and neediest students to their various business concerns. That is followed by a period in which those same tax dollars are hoarded, or used primarily to educate students who are white and relatively privileged.  In both scenarios, the educational futures of children who are of color and also poor are most negatively impacted, tax dollars are squandered, and communities are weakened. There have only been a few moments when we have had the collective will, funding, and infrastructure all in place at the same time to successfully educate non-white children who are not wealthy. The book asks if we are in one of those moments now.

In addition, I am working on a project that explores the raced and classed implications of food justice, a construct that incorporates issues of food sustainability, access and dignity. Far too frequently we overlook the cultural and societal issues impacting food quality and access as well as the health and economic realities surrounding how Americans who are poor, Black, and/or Latino eat, shop, and cook for themselves and their children. However, healthy food and access to it is an issue of both equity and justice and the fact that so few working-class and poor people of color in cities and less urban areas do not have consistent access to it can negatively impact their health outcomes, economic realities and educational futures. 


  • Africana Studies and Research Center
  • American Studies Program
  • Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program

Graduate Fields

  • Africana Studies
  • American Studies
  • Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies


  • Hair Raising: Beauty, Culture and African American Women (Rutgers University Press, 1996)
    (which won both the 1997 Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Book, and the Public Library Associations 1997 award for Outstanding University Press Book)
  • Ladies Pages: African American Women’s Magazines and the Culture that Made Them (Rutgers University Press, 2004)
  • White Money/Black Power: African American Studies and the Crises of Race in Higher Education (Beacon Press, 2007)