Robert Reid-Pharr was born in Charlotte, North Carolina to Robert Lyons Pharr and Joanna Reid Pharr. He attended Garinger High School where he excelled at music, drama, and journalism. Following High School he enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated with his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science in 1987. He went on to earn an M.A. in 1989 in African American Studies and a Ph.D.in 1994 in American Studies from Yale University /
Robert Reid-Pharr currently serves as a critical essayist and Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City. Reid-Pharr is considered a foremost authority on both African American Writing and Twentieth-Century American Literature, especially Poetry, Literary History, Criticism, and Theory.
Before coming to the Graduate Center he was an assistant and associate professor of English at the Johns Hopkins University. In addition, he has been the “Jess and Sara Cloud Distinguished Visiting Professor of English” at the College of William and Mary, the “Edward Said Visiting Chair of American Studies” at the American University of Beirut, the “Drue Heinz Visiting Professor of English” at the University of Oxford, the “Carlisle and Barbara Moore Distinguished Visiting Professor of English” at the University of Oregon, and the “Frederic Ives Carpenter Visiting Assistant Professor of English” at the University of Chicago.
Robert Reid-Pharr was a research fellow of the “Alexander von Humboldt Foundation” from 2002 through 2003. He has also won grants from the “National Endowment for the Humanities”, and the “Library Company of Philadelphia”. His research and writing has also been supported through grants from the “Ford Foundation” and the “Mellon Foundation”.
Robert Reid-Pharr is a prolific public speaker, and had a part in the film ”The Watermelon Woman” directed by Cheryl Dunye. He has frequently collaborated with noted science fiction author Samuel R. Delany at panels and through his writing. His essays have appeared in, among other places, ”Callaloo”, ”Social Text”, “Transition”, “Studies in the Novel”, “Women and Performance”, “The African American Review”, “American Literary History”, “Fuse”, “AfterImage”, “Radical America”, “American Literature”, “Gay Community News”, and the “Washington Blade”.
His highly respected collection of essays, “Black Gay Man”, won the 2002 award for Best Gay Non-fiction given by the Publishing Triangle. His book, “Once You Go Black: Choice, Desire, and the Black American Intellectual”, was a finalist for a Lambda Book Award. He is also the acclaimed author of “Conjugal Union: The Body, the House and the Black American” (Oxford University Press, 1999).
Robert Reid-Pharr worked with the now defunct Gay Rights National Lobby and the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays. In that capacity he became associated with such black gay literary and political figures as Essex Hemphill, Gil Gerald and Barbara Smith.
At present, he is working on a book that treats the relationship of African American intellectuals to Spain as well as a collection of the writings of the late, Essex Hemphill. Robert Reid-Pharr makes his home in Brooklyn.
We join with Robert Reid-Pharr in celebrating his 48th Birthday today, and thank him for his considerable contributions to our community.
Stephen Maglott is an SGL/African American Historian and writer.