Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson

Division of Art History and Contemporary Culture
Tier I Canada Research Chair
Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement
Founding Director – Institute for the Study of Canadian Slavery




Dr. Charmaine A. Nelson is a Professor of Art History and a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Transatlantic Black Diasporic Art and Community Engagement at NSCAD University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. After receiving her PhD in Art History from the University of Manchester (UK) in 2001, she has taught at Western University (2001-2003) and McGill University (2003-2020).

Her research and teaching interests include postcolonial and black feminist scholarship, Transatlantic Slavery Studies and Black Diaspora Studies. Her scholarship examines Canadian, American, European and Caribbean art and visual culture including various types of ‘high’ and ‘low’ art and popular art forms including TV, film, photography, print culture, sculpture, painting and dress. She also works across various genres including portraiture, still-life, nudes and landscape art.

Dr. Nelson is an innovative, award-winning teacher who actively mentors students, supports their professionalization and publishes their research. She encourages student training in primary research protocols including the first-hand study of various types of archival documents and artifacts, art and visual culture. Dr. Nelson has made ground-breaking contributions to the fields of the Visual Culture of Slavery, Race and Representation, Black Canadian Studies and African Canadian Art History. To date she has published seven books including the edited volumes: Racism Eh?: A Critical Inter-Disciplinary Anthology of Race and Racism in Canada (2004), Ebony Roots, Northern Soil: Perspectives on Blackness in Canada (2010), Legacies Denied: Unearthing the Visual Culture of Canadian Slavery (2013) and Towards an African Canadian Art History: Art, Memory, and Resistance (2018). Her single-authored books include: The Color of Stone: Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America (2007), Representing the Black Female Subject in Western Art (2010) and Slavery, Geography, and Empire in Nineteenth-Century Marine Landscapes of Montreal and Jamaica (2016).
Dr. Nelson has given over 250 lectures, papers, and talks across Canada, and the USA, and in Mexico, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, the UK, Central America and the Caribbean. She is also actively engaged with lay audiences through her media work including ABC, CBC, CTV, BBC One and PBS. She blogs for the Huffington Post Canada and writes for The Walrus. She has held several prestigious fellowships and appointments including a Caird Senior Research Fellowship, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK (2007) and a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair, University of California – Santa Barbara (2010).

Most recently, Dr. Nelson was the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies at Harvard University (2017-2018). She was the first black woman and the second art historian to hold this position.