Keyanah Freeland ’10

25 ● Brooklyn, NY ● Ph.D. candidate at New York University in History


After receiving your bachelor’s degree from Columbia in 2014, what are you studying in your Ph.D. program at NYU?

Specializing in the history of the African Diaspora in Latin America, I am currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of History at New York University. My dissertation, tentatively titled “Race, Nation, and Diaspora in the Río de la Plata, 1880-1914,” analyzes the relationship between diasporic connections and the creation of racial logics among people of African descent in Buenos Aires and Montevideo at the turn of the twentieth century. In addition to research, I have also taught undergraduate courses on the history of the African Diaspora, as well as supervised undergraduate research projects ranging from police brutality in Brazil and conceptions of anti-blackness among Dominicans and Dominican-Americans in NYC. 

Why are you so passionate about your work?

As an aspiring history professor, I try to cultivate a social and historical literacy in my undergraduates. Such “literacy” entails a critical understanding of how and why the world operates as it does, and most importantly, a habit of “reading between the lines,” of detecting the significance of absences and silences, drawing out their implications, and evaluating various interpretations to the same historical and social problems. I am passionate and committed to teaching these skills because they have had such a profound impact on my own life. I have used these skills to critically evaluate the world around me, to identify and articulate the problems embedded within my own liminal space between overwhelming privilege and its staggering absence, and to make sense of my day-to-day life.

Has there been a particular moment that you’ve been most proud of?

After my first semester teaching at NYU, I received incredible feedback from my students. For those students who had never taken a class on black history, they were amazed at how rich and integral the histories of people of African descent were to the historical narratives they had already learned. For those more familiar with black history, they were inspired by the complexities and multifaceted nature of the global black experience. Being able to challenge and inspire my students in those particular ways has most certainly been the most rewarding facet of my career thus far.

Keyanah, reflecting back upon your time as an MFS student, what did you most value about your experience?

I have always been thankful for the strong relationships I formed with my teachers at MFS. They always challenged and supported me academically, but in many ways, they were also terrific friends who cared about my general well-being. Their commitment to caring for students as both scholars and people has been a lesson I carry with me and now apply within my own classrooms.


In the Fall 2017 feature story of the Among Friends alumni magazine, 30 young alumni under the age of 30-years-old were profiled for their promising talent. Keyanah Freeland ’10 was one of our 30 under Thirty.