Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
Department of History, California State University San Marcos
Website URL
Black History; Film studies; Political History; Women in Film; African Americans in Film; American Popular Culture; The 1930s; The Great Depression and New Deal; Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Mae West; Hattie McDaniel; Mary McLeod Bethune
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Jill Watts is the Harry S. Brakebill Distinguished Professor 2017-2018 at California State University San Marcos where she teaches in the Department of History.  She received a B.A. in History the University of California, San Diego and a M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles. She came to California State University, San Marcos after teaching at UCLA, Weber State University, and Santa Monica College. She has also taught at Cornell University where she received a fellowship from the Society for the Humanities. Her research interests include United States Political and Cultural history, Digital History, African-American History, Film History, and Biography. She has published four books:  God, Harlem U.S.A.: The Father Divine Story, Mae West: An Icon in Black and White, Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood, and The Black Cabinet: African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt.  Her books on Father Divine and Hattie McDaniel have both been optioned for film.

Professor Watts has served as the Chair of the Department of History, co-chair of Women’s Studies, and the Program Director of Film Studies.  She is currently the Graduate Studies Coordinator for the History Department and is working on a biography of Mary McLeod Bethune.


Recent Publications

The Black Cabinet:  African-American Brain Trusters in the Age of Roosevelt. New York:  Grove/Atlantic Monthly Press, 2020..

 Hattie McDaniel:  Black Ambition, White Hollywood.  New York: HarperCollins/Amistad Press, 2005, paperback 2007. [Optioned for film/theatrical production by Alysia Allen producer]

Mae West: An Icon in Black and White.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, paperback 2003.

God, Harlem USA: The Father Divine Story. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992, Paperback, 1995. [Optioned for film/theatrical production by Project Divine LLC, October 2016]


Media Coverage
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
5, 8
Expertise by Topic
Emancipation, Politics, Race, Religion, Women