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Department of American Studies College of Arts and Sciences

Cara Caddoo

Picture of Cara Caddoo

Assistant Professor
Department of American Studies

Office: Ballantine Hall 520
Phone: (812) 855-7716
E-mail: ccaddoo at


Ph.D., History, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 2013
M.F.A., Integrated Media Arts, Hunter College, City University of New York, 2008
M.A., African American Studies, Columbia University, 2005
B.A., East Asian Studies, New York University, 2001

Research Interest

My research examines popular culture, print and visual media, religion, and historical intersections of race, gender, and ethnicity. I am interested in nineteenth and twentieth century social, political, and institutional formations organized around the idea of blackness, and how African Americans and Asian Americans contributed to these developments.

My first book, Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life, is a history of early African American cinema. In the late nineteenth century, an era marked by mass migration and hardening Jim Crow segregation, African Americans began attending motion picture shows in black churches, lodges and schools. This history not only demonstrates that black people were pioneers of modern cinema, it also provides insights into the unique role of filmgoing in the development of black social bonds and institutions. By raising money, creating shared social experiences, and disseminating their beliefs through their film exhibitions, African Americans integrated the moving pictures into their aspirations for black progress. These developments informed the first mass black protest movement of the twentieth century, which politicized the demand for visual self-representation and articulated the belief that mischaracterizations in film constituted "civil death" and a violation of "natural rights."

Current Courses

  • AMST-A 100 What is America?

Recent Publications

Envisioning Freedom: Cinema and the Building of Modern Black Life (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2014).

  • Winner, Vincent J. DeSantis Prize, Society of Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

"Put Together to Please a Colored Audience": Black Churches, Motion Pictures, and Migration at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, Journal of American History, Forthcoming: December 2014.

"Envisioned Communities," Converging Identities: Blackness in the Contemporary African Diaspora Julius O. Adekunle and Hettie V. Williams, eds. (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press: Forthcoming).

"Double Consciousness and the Visual World of Zora Neale Hurston," Theorizing Visual Studies: Writing Through the Discipline, ed. James Elkins, Taylor and Francis (Routledge, NYC: 2012).

Honors and Awards

  • 2015 - Faculty Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • 2012 - Faculty Appreciation Award, State University of New York at Old Westbury, New York
  • 2009 - The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America Fellowship, Washington, D.C.
  • 2008 - Center for the Humanities Fellowship, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York City, New York