A native of Augusta, Georgia, Professor Donaldson received his undergraduate degree in History and African-American Studies from Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT and his Ph.D. in American History from Emory University where he served on the staff of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project. Previously, he held the Thurgood Marshall Fellowship at Dartmouth College and the Susan Biddle Ford Fellowship at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.
A scholar of southern history and African American life and culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Dr. Donaldson’s research and writings explore African American intellectual thought, print culture, education and religion. Additionally, he has served as a consultant for museum exhibitions, archival collections, oral history initiatives, documentary films, and historic preservation projects, including the renovation of the Booker T. Washington High School in downtown Columbia. In 2008, the Historic Columbia Foundation awarded Dr. Donaldson and his students the Helen Kohn Hennig Prize for their documentary project on the Ward One community in downtown Columbia. Professor Donaldson received a Michael J. Mungo Undergraduate Teaching Award (2010); the John N. Gardner Inspirational Faculty Award (2015); and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award (2016). From 2010-2016, he served as the Faculty Principal of Preston Residential College. After nine years of service, he was named a trustee emeritus of Wesleyan University in 2015.
Currently, Professor Donaldson leads the Center for Civil Rights History and Research, housed in the Hollings Special Collections Library. He also serves as the lead scholar for Columbia SC 63: Our Story Matters, a documentary history initiative that chronicles the struggle for civil rights and social justice in Columbia. Presently, Donaldson is completing a monograph entitled “‘In Our Own Defense’: New Negro Intellectuals in the Jim Crow South.” The project critiques the varied and often competing rhetorical, ideological, and political strategies black intellectuals in Georgia employed as they battled white supremacy and negotiated African Americans’ precarious “place” in both the South and the nation. He is also conducting research on a biography of William Jefferson White, a political activist, Baptist minister and journalist, who founded Morehouse College in 1867.