David Ponton Picture

David Ponton

Assistant Professor & SIGS Undergraduate Director


Home Campus: Tampa
Office: FAO 269

Office Hours: By appointment


Dr. David Ponton III is a historian of Afro-America and the twentieth century United States. Ponton has been an assistant professor at the University of South Florida since 2017, primarily teaching in areas of Africana Studies, has been serving as the Undergraduate Director for SIGS since 2021, and is affiliate faculty with the Institute for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Department of Women's and Gender Studies. Ponton received his A.B. degree from Princeton University with a religious studies concentration and certificates in African American Studies and 6-12 social studies education. After teaching high school history for three years, Ponton earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in History at Rice University with a graduate certificate in the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality.

In addition to the research listed below, Ponton is currently working on a project entitled "Colorism and Police Killings of Black Men" with Dr. Elizabeth Korver-Glenn (Sociology, Washington University in St. Louis), preliminary findings for which can be publicly viewed at:

Students can schedule virtual one-on-one meetings with Dr. Ponton through through Microsoft Bookings:  All meetings will be held on Microsoft Teams unless requested otherwise.


Ponton's research concerns the varied consequences of persistent racial residential segregation following the 1948 Supreme Court ruling Shelley v. Kraemer. Racialized criminalization and police violence, intimate partner violence, educational inequality, gender discrimination, and the politics and psychology of identity all figure heavily in Ponton's published work.

Houston and the Permanence of Segregation

Houston and the Permanence of Segregation: An Afropessimist Approach to Urban History (forthcoming book) attempts to present a history that fully acknowledges "History"--the academic discipline--as a creative, philosophical, and political project, always as concerned with the present as much as its attempts to say something meaningful about the past. The project retains a focus on "race"—the stubborn structural antagonism that is always a consequence of racism and not merely a set of Census categories—sitting with rather than avoiding the implications it has for what would otherwise be ontological fait accompli. But, "Decades of Capture" wrestles with, how does one write a history without treating race as a set of relations and rather a paradigm of non-relation; a story with actors but with no presumption that all actors have agency; a narrative defined by stickiness and viscosity rather than movement and endless lines of flight? And how does a history that is firmly rooted in discourses of pessimism and nihilism open, rather than close, opportunities to imagine a world beyond this one? In this way, the project attempts to rest with what is sometimes seen as the irony of Afropessimism: that once properly conceived as politics, the ontology of this world need no longer constrain thought in the way it does.  

At the level of the archives, Houston and the Permanence of Segregation tells a story about the permanence of segregation in postwar America, using the archives of Houston, Texas, to trace the demise of Jim Crow and the persistence of slavery’s afterlives otherwise. As an urban history, it corroborates the kinds of patterns witnessed elsewhere in the United States in the mid-twentieth century: the fights over school desegregation, the displacements caused by highway construction, the endemic quality of police violence, and acts of anti-black terror. The case of Houston offers some revision to existing historiography by revealing the distinction between urban and suburban as vacuous and by arguing for Houston’s simultaneous exceptionality and lack thereof. As a history of ideas, it lays bare the various and invisible and intractable ways black revolutionary thought had to contend with and was often constrained by accepted “facts”: that normative gender marked the achievement of civilization, that democracy was inherently good and desirable, that the nation could not much longer bear the dissonance between its proclaimed values and its actual practices, that freedom and dignity inhered in all Men. And as a philosophy of history, it practices modes of questioning and experiments with ways of writing that emphasize history as a product, not of the archive, per se, but of the historian’s relationship to it.

Selected Publications

Houston and the Permanence of Segregation: An Afropessimist Approach to Urban History, Austin: University of Texas Press, February 6, 2024. Available for pre-order at UT Press and your favorite bookstores.

“An Afropessimist, Antidisciplinary Rejoinder to History, Its Human, and Its Anti-Blackness,” Qui Parle

“An Afropessimist Account of History,” History and Theory 61, no. 2 (June 2022), 219-241.

“Private Matters in Public Spaces: Intimate Partner Violence against Black Women in Jim Crow Houston,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 39, no. 2 (June 2018).

“A Protracted War for Order: Police Violence in the Twentieth Century United States,” History Compass (May 2018). “

“Clothed in Blue Flesh: Police Brutality and the Disciplining of Race, Gender, and the ‘Human,’” Theory & Event 19, no. 3 (2016).

Current Thesis and Dissertation Committees

  • Amber Klee (M.L.A. student in Africana Studies) - director
  • Brittany Powell (M.L.A. student in Africana Studies) - director
  • Marcella Zulla (Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology)

Past Thesis and Dissertation Committees

  • Sharun Gonzales Mutate (M.A. in Latin American Studies)
  • Anala Lucia Mosquera Rosado (M.L.A. in Africana Studies)
  • Keylon Lovett (M.A. in Journalism and Media Studies)
  • Janae Thomas (Ph.D. candidate in Political Science) – director
  • Jordan Battle (M.L.A. student in Africana Studies) – director
  • Didier Salgado (M.A. student in Sociology)

Prospective graduate students interested in Africana Studies or related fields, and especially those who aim to practice historical methods, are welcome to inquire about thesis/dissertation work related to segregation, Africana philosophy, Afropessimism, and black male studies.