BY C.S. HOWARD
Dr. James Manigault Bryant is an Associate Professor of Africana Studies and Faculty Affiliate in Anthropology and Sociology and Religion at Williams College, a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He is also Chair of the Africana Studies Program.
Since leaving the Bradenton/Sarasota area twenty-five years ago, Prof. Manigault-Bryant has completed undergraduate and graduate degrees, worked for nonprofit organizations, researched think-tanks, and has taught and researched at colleges and universities in the South and northeast. He is a 1991 graduate of Bayshore High School and continued his education at Tulane University where he received a B.A. degree. He received his M.A. and PhD. degrees from Brown University.
Prof. Manigault-Bryant has taught courses on race and religion at College of the Holy Cross and Wake Forest University. He has been a visiting scholar at Morehouse College and the University of Virginia, and has received research support from the Ford Foundation and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. He has been at Williams College for the past six years, promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in his third year. The following year he was appointed as the Chair of Africana Studies for a term of three years. He currently teaches classes on a range of topics related to contemporary African American life, including expressions of spirituality and environmental inequalities, and studies religious phenomena, particularly those that emerge from the experience of being African-American.
Exploring expressions of religion, and the numerous cultural forms they take has led Prof. Manigault-Bryant to two concerns that cut across the fields of Africana Studies and Sociology - our unfolding understanding of the American social unconscious—or the invisible terms of sociality, and the critical insights into this unconscious found in sacred and secular narratives of African- American life. He has worked on two projects that derive from these concerns: Signs of Damascus Road: The Call in the African-American Ministerial Imagination, a cultural study of African-American ministers’ knowledge production and imaginations of American society, and On Black Metaphysics, a book-length proposal for a metaphysic of society.
Prof. Manigault Bryant participates in a number of campus committees, and also writes essays for various journals on the topics that he teaches. He serves on Advisory Committee for the Williams College Child Care Center. He and his wife, Dr. Rhonn Manigault-Bryant, have one son, Cy. He is the son of W. James and Beverly Bryant of Bradenton.
To what do you attribute your success?
Supportive communities have sustained me throughout my life, whether my families and church communities in Tallevast, Rubonia, and Bradenton, or the small group of friends I have made since leaving home years ago. Communities have helped me come to a sense of who I am, what I want to be, and what I am supposed to be doing.
What advice do you have for a young person today?
To cultivate as many skills a s possible— whether foreign language proficiency, computer coding, public speaking, writing, film- making, hair-styling, or anything else—instead of focusing specifically on expertise for a particular profession. Not only does possessing a wide range of skills spark creative thinking, but it better prepares us for moving fluidly within an increasingly global economic market, and for making informed decisions about how our work affects the communities from which we come.