HISTORIAN KEVIN GAINES IS UVA’S FIRST JULIAN BOND PROFESSOR
By Anne E. Bromley
On a bright autumn afternoon in Cleveland more than 50 years ago, 6-year-old Kevin Gaines waited for a rally at his neighborhood playground to see a visitor he already knew was important: a minister named Martin Luther King Jr.
Alas, hearing the civil rights icon was not to happen that day for Gaines. King’s arrival was delayed so long that at sunset, the boy decided to head home and not be late for dinner.
Today, Gaines describes himself as a product of the civil rights era. Even when very young, it was hard not to be affected, he said. His parents were “thoughtful citizens who made sure I had access to what was going on.”
Gaines became a professor of African-American history. And now, after several previous posts at other prestigious universities, he has arrived at the University of Virginia as the inaugural Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice.
“It’s a great honor to be the inaugural holder of the Julian Bond Professorship. It’s a really exciting time to be at UVA, when the institution is redoubling efforts to strengthen Africana studies,” he said from his office in Nau Hall. “I look forward to working with the many outstanding colleagues in history and at the Woodson Institute.
“The civil rights movement was so transformative for people’s lives,” said Gaines, who came to UVA from Cornell University and holds appointments in the Carter G. Woodson Institute of African-American and African Studies and the Corcoran Department of History. He previously taught at Princeton University; the University of Texas, Austin; and the University of Michigan.