Dr. Samuel Kelton Roberts, Jr., PhD, is Associate Professor of History (Columbia University School of the Arts and Sciences) and Sociomedical Sciences (Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health), and is also a former Director of Columbia University’s Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS). Dr. Roberts writes, teaches, and lectures widely on African-American urban history, especially medicine, public health, and science and technology. His widely acclaimed book, Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), is an exploration of the political economy of race and the modern American public health state between the late nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, a period which encompasses the overlapping and mutually-informed eras of Jim Crow segregation and modern American public health practice.
Roberts currently is researching and writing a book-length project on the United States’s troubled history of race and recovery, examining the social and political history of heroin addiction treatment from the 1950s to the early 1990s. This project traces urban policy at the beginning of the postwar heroin epidemic, the emergence of therapeutic communities, the politics of state-run addiction rehabilitation facilities, the adoption of methadone maintenance treatment in the 1960s and 1970s, the emergence of “radical recovery” movements and harm reduction and syringe exchange in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 2013-14, Dr. Roberts was the Policy Director of Columbia University’s newly inaugurated Justice Initiative (now the Columbia University Center for Justice) and was the editor of the Center’s first research publication Aging in Prison: Reducing Elder Incarceration and Promoting Public Safety (2015). At the Columbia University Center for Science and Society, he leads the Research Cluster for the Historical Study of Race, Inequality, and Health. He also is the co-editor of Columbia University Press’s book series in Race, Inequality, and Health. In 2018, Dr. Roberts launched the podcast series People Doing Interesting Stuff (PDIS) (available on iTunes and other podcasting platforms) in which he speaks with people working in public health and social justice, especially harm reduction, HIV/AIDS work, reproductive justice, and criminal justice reform.
He tweets from @SamuelKRoberts.