I am a Professor of History at California State University San Marcos where I teach United States Social and Cultural History, African American History, Film History, and Digital History. In addition to The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt, I am also the author of Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood; Mae West: An Icon in Black and White; and God, Harlem USA: The Father Divine Story. Both the books on Hattie McDaniel and Father Divine have been optioned for film. I have consulted on two PBS documentaries and have talked with radio hosts nationally and internationally about African American History, Women’s History, and Film History.

Jill Watts: CSUSM Photo

I was born in Los Angeles county but raised in my father’s home town of San Diego where I grew up in the neighborhoods of Emerald Hills and Southeast San Diego. After earning a B.A. from the University of California San Diego, I received an M.A. and Ph.D. in History from the UCLA. Before returning to San Diego to teach at California State University San Marcos, I taught at UCLA, Weber State University, Cornell University, and Santa Monica College. I was a fellow at Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities. In 2017, I was grateful to be selected as a Brakebill Distinguished Professor at California State University San Marcos. I have served as the History Department’s Chair, the coordinator of the History Graduate Program, the program director of Film Studies, and the co-director of Women’s Studies. I helped establish the Digital History component for CSUSM’s History graduate degree.

Before becoming a historian, among other jobs, I taught music and worked for Park City Ski resort. I believe passionately that knowing history is necessary and practical, especially in these times. The people of the past and their sacrifices offer us wisdom for our present and guide us for the future.

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