Henryatta Ballah Assistant Professor of History

Henryatta Ballah

Newcomb 218
Curriculum Vitae


Ph.D., The Ohio State University
M.A., The Ohio State University
B.A., Pennsylvania State University


Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Africa, Atlantic World, Civil Wars, Youth History, Labor and Social Movements in Africa, Women’s History, Terrorism.

Henryatta L. Ballah is a historian of Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Africa. She is an award-winning instructor whose scholarly research and teaching focus on ‘bottom-up’ history, meaning an emphasis on the ideas and methods of ordinary people dealing with complex issues within their particular historical moments. Emphasis on the ‘grassroots’ will continue to inform her course content, historical methods, and pedagogical goals.

Her current manuscript explores the political activism of Liberian youth and state repression from the 1950s to 2010 within two contexts: precolonial indigenous childrearing practices, and hierarchical Christian norms introduced by American missionaries in the nineteenth century. She analyzes the ways in which indigenous and American Christian childrearing practices intersected to placed Liberian youth outside the realm of power and authority. She carefully analyzes youth engagements in social and political change throughout the country’s history, including the ways by which the civil war impacted the youth and inspired them to create new social, economic, and political spaces for themselves. She argues that despite the marginalization of Liberian youth in national political discourse, youth have played a crucial role in the quest for democratization, especially since the 1950s. The manuscript is therefore a social, economic, and political history of Liberian youth. It is also the first detailed history of Liberian youth from the nineteenth into the twenty-first century.

The next research project she has embarked on, titled, “Rubber is Slavery: Labor and Protest on the Firestone Rubber Plantation,” examines the company’s labor policies and workers’ protest on its one million acres plantation in Liberia from 1925 to 1970.

Her research has been supported by numerous grants and fellowship, including a 2020 Career Enhancement Fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson National Foundation. Dr. Ballah’s research has been presented at numerous conferences—both domestic and international, including in Africa and Europe.


She teaches courses on African women, the formation of Liberia, precolonial and colonial Africa, youth and social movements in Africa, and terrorism in contemporary Africa. During the Spring Term of 2024, she will take students to study abroad in Ghana.

Selected Publications

• Manuscript in progress: Elders, God, and the State: Historicizing State Repression and Student Activism in Liberia, 1822—2010

• “Witchcraft in Liberia” (article length) in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History (under contract, Oxford University Press).

• “Liberia: A Colonized Nation and the Role of English in that Process,” Journal of West African History, Vol. 5, No.1 (Spring 2019): 29-52.

• Henryatta Ballah and December Green, “Violence against Women: Households, Wars, Refugees and Resistance,” in Holding the World Together: African Women in Changing Perspective, eds. Nwando Achebe and Claire Robertson (University of Wisconsin Press, 2019).

• “Politics is not for Children: Students’ Activism and State Repression in Liberia 1944-1990,” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth 2, no.3, (Fall 2017): 362-379.

• “Ethnicity, Politics, and Social Conflicts: The Quest for Peace in Liberia,” Penn State McNair Scholars Journal 10, (Summer 2003): 52-69.

Prior to joining Washington and Lee University, she was a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Post-Doctoral Fellow at Oberlin College, and an Assistant Professor of History at Connecticut College.