I’ve felt at times, that professors all must have some unspoken rule that they have to speak with arcane, esoteric language – I’ve seen some hide behind their ‘doctorate’, and use it as leverage above their students in any social or professional setting. Dr. Spence is in the ranks with his students. He uses our language – highly intellectual, highly precise- but he speaks in our time….

Johns Hopkins Alumna

I am an Associate Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Center for Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins University. I specialize in the study of black, racial, and urban politics. I’ve published articles on American institutional legitimacy in the wake of the contentious 2000 Presidential election, the effects of long-term black political empowerment on black participation, the role of media narratives on black attitudes about HIV/AIDS, and the determinants of support for black nationalism. But over the past several years I’ve become particularly interested in the neoliberal turn and its effect on black communities. I’ve written two books Stare in the Darkness: The Limits of Hip-hop and Black Politics ((2011 W.E.B. DuBois Distinguished Book Award Winner) and Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics (2016 Best Nonfiction Book, Baltimore City Paper and Baltimore Magazine, and one of The Atlantic’s “2016 Best Books We Missed”) that examine this dynamic.

In the classroom I strive to accomplish three goals: To infuse a love of learning and the life of the mind; to clarify the role politics plays in the world; and finally, to increase the capacity to change it. In 2009 I received an Excellence in Teaching Award from Johns Hopkins University. In 2010 I received an Arts Innovation Grant to fund a course that combined Black Politics and Documentary Photography. In 2016 as a Center of Social Concern Engaged Scholar I taught two “deep dive” courses designed to get students to understand the political circumstances leading up to the Baltimore Uprising. In 2017 I received the Provost’s Prize for Faculty Excellence in Diversity.