Gerald R. Gill (1948-2007) taught American history at Tufts University from 1980-2007. He began as an assistant professor, served as an associate professor beginning in 1987, and became the history department's deputy chair in 1998. He was a leading scholar in the field of African-American history and the history of the civil rights movement. He was also a founding and core member of several interdisciplinary programs at Tufts, including American Studies, Africa in the New World Studies, and Peace and Justice Studies.
Gill was born on November 18, 1948 in New Rochelle, New York, to Robert and Etta Gill. He received a bachelor's degree in history in 1970 from Lafayette College, where he was one of the founders of Lafayette's Association of Black Collegians and the Black Cultural Center. He then earned a master's degree in United States history (1974) and a doctorate in history (1985) from Howard University in Washington D.C. A conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, Gill wrote his dissertation on the history of twentieth-century African-American pacifism.
Gill taught at Howard University (1975-1978), University of the District of Columbia (1978), Harvard University (1979), and UCLA (1986), in addition to Tufts University (1980-2007). He received a number of teaching awards and honors, including Professor of the Year for Massachusetts (twice, in 1995 and 1999); the Lerman-Neubauer Prize for Outstanding Teaching and Advising (1998); the Tufts Community Union Senate's Professor of the Year Award (1999); and the Lillian and Joseph Leibner Award for Distinguished Teaching and Advising (1993). The Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Tufts Community, bestowed on Gill in 2000 by the university's Africana Center, was renamed the Gerald R. Gill Distinguished Service Award in his honor the same year. He was also awarded research fellowships at the W.E.B. Dubois Institute at Harvard (1979), the Center for Afro-American Studies at U.C.L.A. (1985), and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture (1997).
Gill's university service included membership on many committees, particularly those related to undergraduate education and advising. In addition to teaching, mentoring students, and writing, Gill served as a consultant on many public television and documentary projects, including Eyes on the Prize, The American Experience, Africans in America, This Far by Faith, and I'll Make Me a World. He was the author of Meanness Mania: The Changed Mood (1980), co-authored The Case for Affirmative Action for Blacks in Higher Education (1978), edited the Faculty Guide and Student Study Guide for the Eyes on the Prize (1991), and co-edited The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader (1991). At the time of his death, he was working on two unpublished books: Struggling Yet in Freedom's Birthplace: The Civil Rights Movement in Boston, 1935-1972, a history of Boston race relations; and Dissent, Discontent and Disinterest: Afro-American Opposition to the United States War of the Twentieth Century, an extension of his doctoral dissertation.
Gill was divorced with one daughter, Ayanna Gill. He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 26, 2007.