Skip to main content
Sally Afia Nuamah

Sally Afia Nuamah

  • Assistant Professor, Human Development and Social Policy

Affiliated Center(s)

The intersections of race, gender, education policy, and political behavior; the political consequences of public policies across the United States as well as in Ghana and South Africa.


Sally A. Nuamah’s research sits at the intersections of race, gender, education policy, and political behavior. She completed her Ph.D. in political science at Northwestern University in June 2016.

She is currently associate professor of urban politics in Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University. Previously, she worked as an assistant professor at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, a Women and Public Policy fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and a predoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania.

Nuamah’s latest book, Closed for Democracy, investigates the political consequences of mass closures on Black Americans’ relationship with government. The book received three book awards including the American Political Science Association’s Ralph J. Bunche Award, Dennis Judd Award, and the Best Book Award from the Race, Ethnicity & Politics section. Research from the book was recently published in the American Political Science Review and Perspectives on Politics. 

Her newest research is focused on the punishment of Black women and girls and its consequences for their participation in American democracy.  An article based on this work was named the “Best Paper on Intersectionality” by the American Political Science Association and the Rodney Higgins “Best Faculty Paper” by the National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS). Nuamah is currently working on a third related book project tentatively titled, “Mules and the Vanguard: The Punishment and Political Labor of Black Women.” 

Her first book, How Girls Achieve, was released by Harvard University Press in April 2019. She is the recipient of numerous academic and public awards. Most recently, Dr. Nuamah was named Forbes Magazine 2019 “30 under 30” in Education, and awarded the 2019 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, aka “the Brainy Award.”


  • Ph.D. Political Science and Methodology, Northwestern University, 2016
  • M.A. Political Science, Northwestern University, 2013
  • BA, Political Science and Public Policy, The George Washington University, 2011

Selected Awards and Honors

  • 2023 – APSA Ralph J. Bunche Best Book Award for Closed for Democracy
  • 2023 – APSA Race, Ethnicity and Politics Section, Best Book Award for Closed for Democracy
  • 2023 – APSA Dennis Judd Best Book Award for Closed for Democracy
  • 2023 – Joyce Ivy Foundation, Women of Impact Award.
  • 2023 – Power Her, Chrysalis Transformation Award.
  • 2022 – National Conference of Black Political Scientists, Rodney Higgins Best Faculty Paper Award.
  • 2021 – American Political Science Association, Best Paper on Intersectionality Award,  Women, Gender and Politics Section.
  • 2021 – National Women Studies Association/Feminist Formations, Honorable Mention for Best Paper Award.
  • 2021 – Urban Affairs Association, Marilyn J. Gittell Activist Scholar Award.
  • 2021 – Comparative International Education Studies Association, Jackie Kirk Outstanding Book Award, How Girls Achieve.

Selected Publications

Nuamah, Sally (2022/3). Closed for Democracy: How Mass School Closure Undermines the Citizenship of Black Americans. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Nuamah, Sally, and Quinn. Mulroy. (2023). “I am a child!”: Public perceptions of Black girls and their punitive consequences. Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics 8(2): 182–201.

Nuamah, Sally (2021). “Close to Home: Place-Based Mobilization in Racialized Contexts.” American Political Science Review (with Thomas Ogorzalek)

Nuamah, Sally (2020) .“The Cost of Participating while Poor and Black: Toward a Theory of Collective Participatory Debt.” Perspectives on Politics.

Nuamah, Sally (2019). How Girls Achieve. Harvard University Press.

Nuamah, Sally.  (W/ Domingo Morel) (2019). Who Governs? How Shifts in Political Power Shape Perceptions of Local Government Services. Urban Affairs Review.

Nuamah (2018). “Achievement Oriented: Developing Positive Academic Identities for Girl Students at an Urban School.”. American Education Research Journal.

Nuamah, Sally (2017). “The Paradox of Educational Attitudes: Racial Differences in Public Opinion on School Closure”. Journal of Urban Affairs.

Nuamah, Sally (with G. Frempong, N. Feeza, M. Visser, L.Winnar) (2016). Resilient Learners in Schools Serving Poor Communities. Electronic Journal of Research in Education Psychology.