Skip to main content

Daniel Widener

Professor of History

Director of the UC San Diego Institute of Arts and Humanities
UC San Diego Academic Senate Donald Tuzin Distinguished Service Award
University of California Academic Senate Mid-Career Leadership Award

Born in Echo Park and raised in Venice, Widener specializes in the African diaspora, social movements, expressive culture and the global history of the anti-imperialist left. Much of his work focuses on California. He is particularly interested in relational and interethnic approaches to the study of race, anticolonial struggles that cross national borders, and the political and cultural horizons of people of African descent. 

He began his educational career at the Echo Park-Silverlake Peoples’ Childcare Center. He received his Ph.D. in history from New York University. He holds B.A. degrees in history and ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. His first book, Black Arts West: culture and struggle in postwar Los Angeles (Duke University Press, 2010), traces the relationship between cultural activity and political mobilization from the Second World War through the 1992 Rodney King rebellion.  Black Arts West received an honorable mention for the American Studies Association’s John Hope Franklin (Best Book in American Studies) award. His most recent monograph is Third Worlds Within: multiethnic movements and transnational solidarity (Duke, 2024). Widener is co-editor of two works, Another University is Possible, a study of student mobilization in the face of racist provocation at UC San Diego, and Black California Dreamin’: the Crises of California’s African-American Communities.

Widener currently serves in multiple administrative capacities, including as Director of the Institute of Arts and Humanities (, the faculty director of the PATH transfer program, and as interim director of the program in Global South Studies. He is a former Associate Editor at American Quarterly and served on the UC Press Editorial Board. He currently serves as the president of the board of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics (, a Los Angeles-based arts advocacy organization that maintains an archive of more than 100,000 political posters.

Recent Articles and Book-length Publications 


Third Worlds Within: Multiethnic Movements and Transnational Solidarity

(Duke University Press, 2024)

In Third Worlds Within, Daniel Widener expands conceptions of the struggle for racial justice by reframing antiracist movements in the United States in a broader internationalist context. Drawing from an expansive historical archive and his own activist and family history, Widener explores the links between local and global struggles throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Highlighting the key strategic role played by US communities of color in efforts to defeat the conjoined forces of capitalism, racism, and imperialism, Widener produces a new understanding of history that informs contemporary social struggle. Honorable Mention, John Hope Franklin Prize (Best Book in American Studies), American Studies Association (2010)

Black Arts West: culture and struggle in postwar Los Angeles” 

From postwar efforts to end discrimination in the motion-picture industry, recording studios, and musicians’ unions, through the development of community-based arts organizations, to the creation of searing films critiquing conditions in the black working class neighborhoods of a city touting its multiculturalism—Black Arts West documents the social and political significance of African American arts activity in Los Angeles between the Second World War and the riots of 1992. Illuminating the fundamental connections between expressive culture and political struggle, Black Arts West is a major contribution to the histories of Los Angeles, black radicalism, and avant-garde art.

Co-edited Volumes 

Black California Dreamin’: Social Vision and the Crisis of California’s African American Communities,” conceived by Clyde Woods, co-edited with Ingrid Banks, George Lipsitz, Gaye Johnson, and Ula Taylor. (Santa Barbara: Center for Black Studies Research, 2013). Black California Dreamin’offers a critical excavation of the overlapping crises—housing, policing, employment, and the loss of place—that buffeted California’s African American communities in the aftermath of the great recession. The book is available here: (insert link to 

Another University is Possible Co-edited as part of the Another University is Possible Collective (San Diego: University Readers, 2010). Another University is Possible brings together a variety of primary sources that document a mass student mobilization in the face of racist provocations and ongoing administrative neglect at the University of California at San Diego. The book can be found here:

Recent Articles

“The Music and the Movement: brief thoughts on community, jazz and politics,” in Samuel Lamontge, Keeping Time: The Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. (Forthcoming, 2024). 

“Black on Both Sides: Internationalism and the Struggle for México Negro,” Kalfou, Volume 10, Issue 1 (Spring 2023), 61-81. 

“From South Africa to South Central L.A.: Transnational Black Protest, Celebrity, and the Cultural Boycott,” co-authored with Mychal Odom, Critical Arts, Volume 34, Issue 1 (2020), 99-115. 

“The Jazz Epic as American History: John Carter and Wynton Marsalis,” Doshisha American Studies (53: 2017, pp.39-50)

“Race and Sport,” in Wayne Wilson and Robert Edelman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Sports History  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), pp. 461-474. 

As a faculty member at a public institution, I am dedicated to student success, shared governance, antiracist pedagogy, institutional transformation, and advocating for the humanities.  The information below details some of my activities in this regard. For a fuller list, please email me at 

Transfer Student Success: Under the vision of the 1960 California Master Plan for higher education, the ability of students to transfer to the UC from any of the 116 community colleges in California forms a bedrock of access and equity. As the child of former community college teachers and a former community college student and instructor, I support prospective transfer students as faculty director of the PATH program. PATH is a transfer partnership between UC San Diego and the San Diego Community College District that aims to facilitate the admission and graduation of humanities students. I believe in the promise of a California that can provide for the educational needs of all those who live here. 

Humanities Advocacy: Since 2022, I have served as the director of the UC San Diego Institute of Arts and Humanities.  IAH emphasizes the value of interdisciplinary thinking in addressing the needs of a complex world. IAH houses 16 academic programs in regional, ethnic and thematic studies. IAH provides funding for graduate students, faculty, and programming, and maintains a robust calendar of events aimed at ensuring that humanities activity is not limited to our campus, but is accessible to the broader San Diego community.  Via initiatives such as our challenging conversations series, our breaking out of the classroom grants, and through workshops held in partnership with other humanities centers throughout the University of California system, IAH seeks to ensure that that which most makes us human is not lost amidst the ceaseless devaluing of public inquiry and creative endeavor.  I believe that the humanities constitute a core element of the university enterprise.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Since arriving at UC San Diego, I have had the opportunity to work with students from a diverse set of backgrounds.  In the past, I served as the faculty advisor to the UC San Diego Black Student Union and Students for Justice in Palestine.  I have worked closely with MEChA, the Raza Resource Center, the Intertribal Resource Center, the Black Resource Center, and UAW 2865. I served as faculty director of the African American Studies program during the 2010 Compton Cookout As a former undergraduate ethnic studies major and an early member of NYU GSOC, I believe that underrepresented students of color and organized labor must continue to struggle to build a university that works for all of us. 

Shared Governance: I am an active member of the Academic Senate at both the San Diego and systemwide levels. I have served as chair of the Committee on Diversity and Equity as well as the systemwide committee known as UCAADE [University Committee on Affirmative Action, Diversity, and Equity]. I served on our campus Committee on Admissions, as well as the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools. I am part of the task force charged with developing an ethnic studies requirement and have served on previous task forces that dealt with nonresident enrollment, the hiring of enrollment managers and chief diversity officers, faculty pay and benefits, and the expansion of Academic Senate membership. In recognition of these activities I was awarded the Donald Tuzin Distinguished Service Award (2022-2023) and a University of California Mid-Career Leadership Award (2022-2023).  I believe strongly that faculty advocacy and shared governance are foundational to the university enterprise. 

External Program Reviewing: I have experience with and am happy to consider performing external program reviews for programs in history, ethnic studies, African American and Diaspora programs, Latinx Studies, and related fields. 

Editorial Experience: I am a former member of the University of California Press editorial board ( and a former editor at American Quarterly, the journal of the American Studies Association.  I currently serve as the president of the board of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics. I am always willing to consider reviewing manuscripts that deal with Black radical politics, jazz, the politics of culture, Indigenous activism, multiracial movements, the political left in the global south, the African diaspora in Latin America, the history of Los Angeles, and the history of California. 

If any of these ideas resonate with you, I urge you to be in touch: