William L. Van Deburg

William L. Van Deburg (born May 8, 1948) is an American historian. He has been a faculty member in the department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison since 1973 and has written on antebellum slavery, on the history of black nationalism, and on contemporary African-American popular culture. Van Deburg retired from teaching in 2008 and is currently Professor Emeritus.


Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Van Deburg graduated from Central High School in 1966. He received his B.A. cum laude with Honors in History from Western Michigan University in 1970 and was awarded a National Defense Education Act Fellowship to attend graduate school. He earned a Ph.D. in American History from Michigan State University in 1973, submitting a dissertation entitled: Rejected of Men: The Changing Religious Views of William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass.


After training with Russel B. Nye, a contributor to the development of American popular culture studies, at Michigan State, Van Deburg began teaching at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Since 1973, he has worked to develop the field of Black Popular Culture Studies within the academy, utilizing pulp fiction, black cast film, and popular music as historical sources. He was chair of Wisconsin's Afro-American Studies department from 1981–1984 and was appointed Evjue-Bascom Professor in 2003.

Personal life

Van Deburg is married (1989–present) to Diane Sommers, an artist and systems analyst. He was previously married (1967–1988) to Alice J. Honeywell, an editor. His family includes daughters Marcie and Rachel; sons Joshua and Theodore. He lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Selected works



Edited Collections


    Directory of American Scholars (Farmington Hills: Thompson/Gale, 2001); Contemporary Authors (Farmington Hills: Thompson/Gale), 2002); Who's Who in American Education (New Providence: Marquis, 2007); University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives, Oral History Program, #872, 2007.

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