College of Arts & Sciences

the department of African American Studies

Ronald J. Stephens, Ph.D.


Ronald J. Stephens, Ph.D., a Temple University graduate, is associate professor of African American Studies and acting director of the African American Research and Services Institute of the Department of African American Studies at Ohio University. A scholar on the popular African American resort town of Idlewild, Michigan, Dr. Stephens, a Detroit native, has worked as a research assistant on Ted Talbert's award-winning documentary-film Idlewild: A Place in the Sun (1995). Owing to his national reputation as one of the leading Idlewild scholars, he has appeared on and been cited in numerous public programs, including Idlewild: The Real Thing (an edition of Tony Brown's Journal), Idlewild (an NPR production), Idlewild: Rebuilding Paradise (a Flint's ABC 12 Special program), Are We There Yet? Americans on Vacation (a History Channel program), Idlewild, Michigan: A Black Historical Resort (on Milwaukee's Black Nouveau series), and Historic African-American Towns (a High Noon Productions program for Home and Gardens Television).

Along with numerous articles and historical reports on Idlewild, he is the author of Idlewild: The Black Eden of Michigan (Arcadia Publishing, 2001), a popular pictorial reader that focuses exclusively on Idlewild's illustrious history, as well as Idlewild: The Rise, Decline and Rebirth of a Unique African American Resort Town (a forthcoming University of Michigan Press 2013 scholarly book). The co-curator of Welcome to Idlewild, with Marsha MacDowell of the Michigan State University Museum, a MSUM traveling Idlewild photographic exhibition (2003-present), a project which increased public interest and understanding about the resort town, he remains a strong advocate of Idlewild. Dr. Stephens is also completing a second book-length scholarly project, Robert Franklin Williams Speaks, an edited collection of writings by and about the national and international activist, veteran civil and human rights advocate, critic, and pragmatist.

As a professor it is Stephens' goal to engage students in the art of learning. He sees himself as a facilitator guiding students in the learning and discovery process, and views the classroom as a laboratory or think tank where they have the opportunity to test ideas, experiment with various theories, and ultimately to polish their ideas. Depending on the class size and the course level, Stephens employs the Socratic teaching method as well as an interactive lecture experience and delivery style to encourage, inspire, and challenge students to think outside the box. In addition to instilling the typical liberal arts skills of critical thinking, reading, and writing, he strives to inspire students to be change agents. This often means engaging students in discussions about difficult topics, critical issues and examples of injustice. Stephens wants students to see the various perspectives in all their nuances and to be rigorous, use sound arguments, and provide good evidence to produce good scholarship.

AAS 1060 Introduction to African American Studies
AAS 3400 History of Injustice in the United States
AAS 4300 Social Theory, Research and Method
AAS 4900 Field Experience in African American Communities
AAS 5200 African American and African Intellectual History