Pic of Prof. Smith-Pryor

Elizabeth Smith-Pryor

Associate Professor and Undergraduate Coordinator
Contact Information


I am an associate professor who specializes in African American History and Women’s/Gender History. I have been at Kent State since fall 2001 and greatly enjoy living in northeast Ohio with my spouse, children, rescue pitbull mix dog, and two cats. Born and raised in Staten Island, New York (part of New York City, although many Manhattanites might not recognize it as such), I earned my AB in Government from Harvard in 1984, and a JD from Stanford Law School in 1987. After practicing law for 6 years in New York, I recognized that career as overly-toxic and returned to academia, earning my PhD in American History from Rutgers University in 2001. 


My research interests include the tumultuous history of race in this country, along with its intersections with gender, class, and power. Currently, I am working on my second monograph tentatively titled Equality Will Become a Reality: The Urban League’s New Thrust and America’s Unfinished Second Reconstruction, 1968-1978. I am examining America’s “Second Reconstruction” —the eras of the modern Civil Rights and Black Power movements—through a narrative analysis of black Americans’ struggle to reconceptualize the American ideal of equality. Taking as its main actors the National Urban League and one local Urban League affiliate, the Urban League of Cleveland, Ohio, my history of the Second Reconstruction will center one mainstream organization which explicitly worked toward equality for African Americans, primarily those living in the nation’s cities. In 2016, I was awarded the Ford Foundation Senior Fellowship to support my research for this project. 


My first book, titled Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness, was published in May 2009 by the University of North Carolina Press. In this book, I closely examined the Rhinelander annulment trial of 1926, in which Leonard Rhinelander, the youngest son of a New York City real estate investor/developer with deep ties to New York's ruling class, descendant of a very wealthy Knickerbocker family related to Edith Wharton, sued to end his marriage to Alice Jones, his first and only girlfriend. The only legal basis Leonard used for this attempt was his claim that Alice had passed as white when he claimed she was, in fact, 'colored'. 


At Kent State, I teach undergraduate survey courses in American history, as well as undergraduate and graduate courses in African-American History, The History of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, The History of Whiteness, and American Women's History. 





African-American History, National Urban League, History of Race, History of Poverty, African American History


  • Property Rites: The Rhinelander Trial, Passing, and the Protection of Whiteness, University of North Carolina Press (May 2009)