Keith A. Mayes

Associate Professor, African American & African Studies

Keith A. Mayes, in front of a group of students, speaks to the camera.

In courses like The Civil Rights and Black Power Movement and Black Social Policy and the Welfare State, Keith Mayes helps students achieve a greater awareness and understanding of social justice. Key to this outcome is his skill in creating a safe space for them to talk openly and honestly about sensitive subjects. 

“His genius was his willingness to allow students to debate one another and stepping in when the debate became unproductive,” says a former student.

As a speaker, “His way with words and concepts will have you on the edge of your seat just begging for more,” says another.

I allow students to revel in and contribute their own ideas and interpretations of the course materials, then challenge those positions by introducing provocative statements about black life and culture.--Keith A. Mayes

As director of undergraduate studies for the Department of African American and African Studies (AAAS), Mayes revised the curriculum and helped faculty launch new courses more in alignment with U of M liberal education requirements. And as a mentor, he has helped countless students forge their own paths to success. For example, even while serving as department chair, he worked closely with a student to help her graduate in four years while adding AAAS as a third major.

For some students, Mayes’ impact is even more deeply personal.

“Seeing an African American male professor my freshman year changed my perspective on what was possible,” a former student says. “I did not think I could get a doctorate until the day Keith Mayes walked into the Willey Hall auditorium.”

Meet all Morse-Alumni Award winners