Jacob Dorman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Core Humanities and History
Jacob Dorman


Associate Professor Jacob S. Dorman teaches courses on United States history, African American history, the Gilded Age and progressive eras, cultural and intellectual history and Core Humanities. He pays particular attention to creating idea-driven lectures, scaffolding writing skills, explaining theoretical assumptions of scholarly work even in introductory courses and facilitating transformative learning experiences.

Dorman received his B.A. with highest honors from Stanford University in 1996, where he studied with professors including Clayborne Carson, George Frederickson, Arnold Eisen and Sylvia Wynter and his Ph.D. in United States History with an emphasis on African American History from University of California, Los Angeles in 2004. There he studied with professors such as Joyce Appleby, Gary Nash, Carlo Ginzburg, Laura Edwards, Lynn Hunt, Donald Cosentino and his dissertation adviser, Brenda Stevenson.

His last book, which appeared from Beacon Press in March 2020, was entitled "The Princess and the Prophet: The Secret History of Magic, Race, and Black Muslims in America," and set the history of the 1920s emergence of American Black Muslim sects within a broad cultural history of Islam and orientalism in American life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The book recovers the hidden life of the first Black Muslim prophet, Noble Drew Ali, as he went from being a child star on Broadway to a Hindu magician in circuses, Wild West Shows and vaudeville theaters and a conjure doctor on the East Coast before founding the Moorish Science Temple based in Chicago in 1925 and dying a mysterious death in 1929. By focusing on Drew Ali's story and also on the many Islamic influences in the World's Fair of 1893, in the Shriners, in Black Nationalism and in magic, this book explains not only where the Black Muslims came from, but why the African American adoption of Islam made sense in an era of growing imperialism, racism, segregation, northern migration and orientalist entertainment. It also provides a history of politics and corruption in 1920’s Chicago. The book won an award from the Illinois Historical Society. Robin DG Kelley called the book “spectacular in so many ways.”

He is also the author of "Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions" (Oxford 2013), which won the Wesley-Logan Prize from the American Historical Association, the 2014 Albert J. Raboteau Book Prize for the Best Book in Africana Religions and the Byron Caldwell Smith Book Prize from the University of Kansas. CHOICE also named the book an Outstanding Academic Title; it became an Oxford University Press bestseller and was reprinted in 2016. Penn's John L. Jackson declared that, "Jacob Dorman has written a masterful (even paradigm-shifting) book on Black Judaism, a genuine tour de force...a powerful and meticulous portrait...an engaging and thoughtful read..." Robin D.G. Kelley of UCLA wrote the book, "Made an immense contribution to our understanding of the African Diaspora, religion and modernity, and the vexing problem of cultural identity. The research is prodigious, the scope impressive, and his telling of how African-descended people embraced and transformed Judaism is truly dynamic. Most importantly, Chosen People reminds us that people are not merely inheritors of tradition but its creators." Other reviewers used terms like engaging, fascinating, intricate, impressive, refreshing and twice called the book a "must-read."

Dorman is the author of many scholarly articles or anthology chapters and book reviews, which have appeared in such venues as The Journal of African American History, "Nova Religio: A Journal of New and Emergent Religions;" "Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society; and "The Journal of Pan African Studies." His work has been generously supported by many funders, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Newberry Library, the American Council of Learned Societies Ryskamp Fellowship, the Mellon Foundation, the Hall Center for the Humanities at the University of Kansas, the Gilder-Lehrman Institute, the Black Metropolitan Research Consortium at the University of Chicago and libraries or institutes associated with Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Duke, Wisconsin, Texas and the University of Kansas.

Research Interests

  • U.S. cultural history
  • African American history
  • Race and ethnicity
  • U.S. religious history
  • Popular culture
  • The Gilded Age and progressive eras
  • Theory and methods

Class Materials

  • HIST 102 - U.S. History Since 1877
  • CH 203 - American Experiences and Constitutional Change
  • HIST 290 - The Roaring Twenties
  • HIST 293C - Introduction to African-American History I
  • ETS 307 - Topics in Race and Racism
  • HIST 415C/615C - U.S. History 1877-1929 (Gilded Age and Progressive Era)
  • HIST 410B/610B - American Cultural and Intellectual History II
  • HIST 724 - Topical Seminar in U.S. History


  • The Princess and the Prophet: A Tale of Magic, Muslims, and America (Boston: Beacon Press, 2019)
  • Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).
  • "Dreams Defended and Deferred: The Brooklyn Schools Crisis of 1968 and Black Power's Influence on Rabbi Meir Kahane" American Jewish History 100 no. 2 (April 2016): 411-437.
  • "Oriental Hieroglyphics Understood Only by the Priesthood and a Chosen Few:" The Islamic Orientalism of White and Black Masons and Shriners" in Islam and the Atlantic World: New Paradigms from Latin America and the Caribbean, edited by Aisha Khan, 49-68. Gainesville, U. Press of Florida, 2015.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Ph.D., United States History, University of California, Los Angeles, 2004
  • A.B., History with Highest Honors, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, 1996