Howard University‘s historian was just chosen as the senior adviser to the national initiative Truth Racial Healing and Transformation Movement. In the position, Lopez Matthews Jr., Ph.D. will be using his expertise on historical injustices to heal the United States and bring it toward a brighter future.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker introduced legislation that would establish the nation’s first-ever U.S. Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Commission earlier in December. According to a release from Booker, the commission is the first of its kind created to acknowledge and examine how disenfranchising African Americans has lead to the inequities that exist and persist today.

Lopez Matthews Jr., Ph.D.

“This year has brought to bear the harsh reality that systemic racism is ever present in our political, legal, environmental, economic, health, and social institutions,” said Senator Booker. “As a nation, we must acknowledge and grapple with the systemic racism and white supremacy that have been with us since our country’s founding and continues to persist in our laws, our policies and our lives to this day. The first ever Congressional commission on truth, racial healing, and transformation will be a critical compliment to legislative efforts to build a more just and equitable future, including the recent George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and the long time movement to establish a commission to study reparations.

Dr. Matthews was a strong choice for the leadership position. As Howard shared in a statement, he serves as the manager and digital production librarian of the Digital Production Center for the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center and the Howard University Libraries. HBCUs lead Matthews’ educational background. He earned his B.A. in history from Coppin State University in 2004, a master’s degree in public history in 2006 and a doctorate in U.S. history from Howard University in 2009. He enhanced his degrees with certifications in archival records data management, federal records management and Library of Congress digital preservation training. He has prior work with the Maryland State Archives, the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C. 

As a historian at Howard University, he is well-versed in the role that HBCUs have played in the Civil Rights movement. Dating back to the 1930s, Howard students fought against racism in the segregated South, and faculty members were among leaders of the movement.

In his position, Dr. Matthews will collaborate with a diverse group to advocate for racial equity. Academics, faith leaders, celebrities, artists, and national civic groups all recently met to form the Truth Racial Healing and Transformation Movement’s leadership group. A top priority will be to ensure that the commission’s activities are supported by federal legislation and are able to thrive.

“The goal of a commission is to find and promote racial healing in America,” says Matthews. “This movement is a valiant effort, and I am hopeful that we have no reason to be pessimistic about the future of race relations in this country,” he shared hopefully.