Robert A. Pratt has been a member of UGA's history faculty since 1987. He received his Bachelor's degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and his Master's and PhD from the University of Virginia. He has served formerly as Director of the Institute for African American Studies and Chair of the History Department. His articles and essays have appeared in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Rutgers Law Journal, The University of Richmond Law Review, Howard Law Review, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, and other journals and magazines. He is the recipient of several national fellowships and grants, including a Danforth Foundation Fellowship (1980-1984), a Spencer Foundation Grant (1990), and a Brown Foundation Fellowship (1995). He is the author of The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia, 1954-89 (University Press of Virginia, 1992) which received an Outstanding Book Award from the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights; We Shall Not Be Moved: The Desegregation of the University of Georgia (U of Georgia Press, August 2002); and Selma's Bloody Sunday: Protest, Voting Rights, and the Struggle for Racial Equality (Johns Hopkins Press, 2017). He has also served as historical consultant for several documentaries.
Few scholars of the civil rights movement have actually experienced first-hand the inner workings of the criminal justice system from the inside of a jail cell. On December 7, 2017, the day after being called to school to try to gain control of his twenty-year-old autistic son who was having a psychotic episode, Pratt was arrested and charged with a felony, accused of exploiting a disabled person--despite the fact that his son sustained no injuries (all charges were subsequently dismissed). From the moment of his arrest, Pratt, a high-profile black professor, was treated like a common criminal, despite thirty years of distinguished service as a faculty member. His arrest, and the eight-month ordeal that followed, exposed the fallacy that those who are accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty, and his thirty-year record of professional achievement and distinguished community service did not spare him the indignities faced daily by those who find themselves on the wrong side of the criminal justice system. Vilified in the local media and press, Pratt's own personal experiences serve as a cautionary tale that anyone--regardless of the degree of influence or affluence they may have attained--can be snared by a criminal justice system more interested in sensational news reporting than in dispensing fair and equitable justice. Since his ordeal, Pratt has become a passionate advocate for those whose minority status and lack of financial resources often render them helpless and vulnerable in a system where the odds are stacked against them.
The Color of Their Skin: Education and Race in Richmond, Virginia, 1954-89. University Press of Virginia, 1992.
We Shall Not Be Moved: The Desegregation Of The University Of Georgia. University of Georgia Press, 2002.
African American National Biography. Henry Louis Gates and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, General Editors. Oxford University Press, 2008. (Contributor and subject editor, Eight volumes).
Selma's Bloody Sunday: Protest, Voting Rights, and the Struggle for Racial Equality. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017.