Signithia Fordham, who is known nationally for her extensive research on race, gender, and identity politics, has assumed the title of Susan B. Anthony Professor of Gender and Women's Studies at the University of Rochester. She has a dual appointment in the anthropology department and in the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Gender and Women's Studies.
In 1981, Fordham undertook a three-year study at a public high school in Washington, D.C. Her findings chronicling black resistance-manifested both as conformity and avoidance to a system of schooling that compelled students not only to devalue the African-American community but to embrace and internalize the mores and practices of the school in exchange for academic achievement-were first published in 1986 and evoked a robust debate and action among educators throughout the next decade. The findings were detailed and expanded in her 1996 book, Blacked Out: Dilemmas of Race, Identity and Success at Capital High.
Her other primary publications include "Black Students' School Success: Coping with the Burden of 'Acting White'," with John Ogbu; "Why Can't Sonya (and Kwame) Fail Math?"; "Speaking Standard English from Nine to Three: Language Usage as Guerilla Warfare at Capital High"; and "Those Loud Black Girls: (Black) Women, Silence, and Gender 'Passing' in the Academy."
Fordham has presented papers or participated in panels during more than 100 programs and conferences, discussing topics such as self esteem among African-American girls, academic competition among black students, social factors and school achievement, and racism in American education. She is a frequent guest on public affairs programs and has appeared on C-SPAN, WABC-TV, CBS, NPR, and the BBC.
Fordham has been the recipient of numerous grants supporting her work, including awards from the Spencer Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Education.
Her current research projects include a longitudinal study on some of the students in the Capital High study; a project on race titled "Passin' for Black: Performing Kinship, Race, Identity in the Imagined Black Community;" and a study of female competition and aggression. At Rochester, Fordham teaches courses that focus on issues of race and gender, including "Women and Society" and Urban Schools: Race and Gender."
Before coming to Rochester, Fordham taught at Rutgers University, the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and the University of Connecticut. She was a Visiting Fellow in African and African-American Studies at Yale University and the first Presidential Fellow in the American Studies Program at Princeton University.