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Timothy Patrick McCarthy

Timothy Patrick McCarthy

Lecturer in Public Policy
Lecturer on History and Literature

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Timothy Patrick McCarthy, Ph.D., is Lecturer on History and Literature and on Public Policy at Harvard University. He is also Core Faculty and Director of the Sexuality, Gender, and Human Rights Program (formerly the Human Rights and Social Movements Program) at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he runs a biweekly student study group, hosts the monthly public conversation series, “The Activist’s Studio,” convenes an annual spring conference on “Gay Rights as Human Rights,” and co-chairs the Regional Working Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, a first-of-its-kind research collaborative with scholars and practitioners working to combat the global scourge of human bondage.

Dr. McCarthy graduated with honors from Harvard College in History and Literature and received his M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in History from Columbia University, where he completed his dissertation under the direction of Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner.  From 1994-1998, he was a research fellow at Columbia’s Institute for Research in African-American Studies, where he was the founding managing editor of the journal Race & Reason.  From 2003-2005, he was a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he helped to launch the first phase of the “Long Civil Rights Movement” Oral History Project, focusing on school desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky, and Birmingham, Alabama.  During the 2007-2008 academic year, he was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History.  Dr. McCarthy is also the recipient of research fellowships from the Ford and Mellon Foundations, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Oberlin College Archives, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

An historian of social movements, media culture, and the American radical tradition, Dr. McCarthy has published three books: The Radical Reader:  A Documentary History of the American Radical Tradition (New Press, 2003), now in its second printing; Prophets of Protest:  Reconsidering the History of American Abolitionism (New Press, 2006); and Protest Nation:  Words That Inspired a Century of American Radicalism (New Press, 2010).  His forthcoming books—The Indispensable Zinn: The Essential Writings of the People’s Historian and Stonewall’s Children:  A Modern History of Liberation, Loss, and Love—will be published by the New Press in 2012. He is also at work on a cultural history of the American abolitionist movement, entitled Bonds of Empathy:  Cultural Abolitionism and the Pursuit of American Equality.  A frequent media commentator, Dr. McCarthy is featured in several documentary films, has appeared on Air America, BBC, Bloomberg Radio, NPR, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now!, and Big Think, and has written for The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Huffington Post, In These Times, Boston Globe, and other publications.

The adopted only son and grandson of New York public school teachers and factory workers, Dr. McCarthy is an award-winning teacher, advisor, and mentor.  He is the recipient of the Stephen Botein Prize for Outstanding Teaching (2000) and the John R. Marquand Award for Exceptional Advising and Counseling (2003) in Harvard College.  In addition, he has twice won the Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize for Excellence in Senior Thesis Advising (2002, 2009), and is a six-time recipient of the Derek Bok Center’s Certificate of Distinction in Teaching (2006-2011).  At the Harvard Kennedy School, he has received the Class of 2009 Special Commendation for Excellence in Teaching and the Dean’s Citation for Teaching Excellence (2009, 2010).  His courses—“American Protest Literature from Tom Paine to Tupac,” “Stories of Slavery and Freedom,” and “Arts of Communication”—are consistently among the most popular and highly rated at Harvard.  In February 2010, Dr. McCarthy was voted by the undergraduate student body to be one of ten faculty members featured in the first-ever “Harvard Thinks Big” event, Harvard’s version of the TED Talks, where he delivered a rousing lecture entitled, “Does Protest Have a Future?

In addition to his work as a scholar and teacher, Dr. McCarthy is a devoted public servant and advocate for social justice. Since 1990, he has been a Big Brother to Malcolm Green, now 25, whom he met while volunteering in the Cambridge Public Schools when he was a sophomore in college.  A founding member of Harvard’s Faculty Committee for a Living Wage, he worked for many years with one of his undergraduate mentors, Dr. Robert Coles, to develop an ongoing series of reflection sessions for student organizers working with low-income communities in the Boston area through the Phillips Brooks House Association, Harvard’s student-run public service and social justice organization. In 2010, Dr. McCarthy received the “PBHA Advocate Award” in recognition of his “commitment to social justice and many years of dedicated leadership.”  He currently serves on the boards of Free the Slaves, a Washington-based human rights NGO dedicated to eradicating the scourge of modern slavery, and Freedom Forward, an organization that seeks to align U.S. foreign policy with the progressive values of global freedom and prosperity for all.

In the fall of 2001, after a series of public speeches in which he was sharply critical of the Bush Administration’s rush to war in Afghanistan following 9/11, Dr. McCarthy was one of 117 American activists and intellectuals—including Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, and the late Howard Zinn—who were targeted for being “short on patriotism” in a report published by the Association of College Trustees and Alumni, a conservative “think tank” co-founded by Lynne Cheney and Joseph Lieberman. A committed pacifist, he remains an outspoken critic of American wars abroad.  Dr. McCarthy was also featured prominently in journalist Richard Bradley’s book, Harvard Rules, a critical examination of the controversial and short-lived tenure of former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers.

From 2002 to 2011, Dr. McCarthy served as Academic Director of the Boston Clemente Course in the Humanities, a multi-disciplinary college course offered free of charge to low-income adults through the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, Massachusetts; he still teaches the American History section of the course. As founding director of Harvard’s Alternative Spring Break Church Rebuilding Project, he has spent the last 15 years taking groups of undergraduates—from Columbia, Harvard, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—to help rebuild African-American churches that have been burned in arson attacks. In 2007, he was honored by the National Coalition for Burned Churches and Community Empowerment for his longstanding commitment to civil rights and religious tolerance.

A national leader in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, Dr. McCarthy was a founding member of Barack Obama’s National LGBT Leadership Council, has given expert testimony to the Pentagon Comprehensive Working Group on the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” serves on the advisory board of the Harvey Milk Foundation, and is lead research collaborator and founding governing board member for Face Value, a new organization dedicated to eradicating social and cultural stigma and improving the lived experiences of LGBT people.  In October 2010, he and his Face Value colleagues received a $730,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to study the root causes of LGBT stigma.  Part of a new initiative on “Sexuality, Health, and Rights Among Youth in the United States,” it is one of the largest grants ever awarded by the Ford Foundation to study LGBT issues.  A highly sought-after voice on these and other social justice issues, Dr. McCarthy has lectured at the New School, Yale, Columbia, NYU, Princeton, Fordham School of Law, UC-Berkeley, UDC Law School, Georgetown, Bryant University, Bowdoin College, UMass-Amherst, Emerson School of Journalism, Plymouth State University, and Arizona State.  In 2009, he delivered Harvard’s 4th Annual Nicholas Papadopoulos Lecture, entitled “Stonewall’s Children:  Life, Loss, and Love after Liberation,” and this fall, he will deliver the 2011 Kniep Lecture at Pacific University, entitled “In Search of Empathy: Social Movements and the Struggle for Equality.”

Dr. McCarthy is also active in alumni affairs at Harvard University. He serves a lifetime appointment as Secretary of the Harvard-Radcliffe Class of 1993, and is the former President of the Association of Harvard College Class Secretaries and Treasurers. He is now serving his third term as a Director of the Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus, and was the Programming Co-Chair for the HGLC’s 25th Anniversary Weekend in September 2008. He has been an Appointed Director to the Harvard Alumni Association, and currently serves as Vice President for College Alumni Affairs on the HAA Board of Directors.

Dr. McCarthy lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his husband C.J. Crowder, Director of School Leader Recruitment for Achievement First, a network of high-achieving charter schools in the Northeast. They are Resident Affiliates of Quincy House, where they were married on Memorial Day 2011.  They are the proud fathers of a new black Lab puppy, Jeter, named for the legendary shortstop on the greatest baseball team in history.



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