Sally Nuamah

Dr. Sally Afia Nuamah

Assistant Professor


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.

Currently, she is  assistant 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.

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.”

Curriculum Vitae

Adobe Acrobat PDF View Sally Nuamah's CV.


  • 2019 - Duke Univeristy Pioneer Award ( awarded to a faculty member who has transformed the university)
  • 2019 - Andrew Carnegie Fellowship ("Brainy Award")
  • 2019 - Susan Clarke Award (APSA Urban Politics Section)
  • 2019 - Clarence Stone Award (APSA Urban Politics Section Early Career Award)
  • 2018 - Forbes Magazine "30 under 30 in Education"
  • 2018 - Africa Festival of the Arts 2018 "Advocate Award"
  • 2018 - Global Strategists Association “Emerging Leader Award”
  • 2016 - Black Women Organized for Political Action "Under 40 Award in Education"
  • 2016 - White House State of the Women Nominated Change-maker
  • 2015 - Best Educational Documentary, PBS Top 20 International Film Festival
  • 2015 - Chicago Scholars "35 under 35" Leaders Making an Impact
  • 2014 - Changing Worlds Connecting Cultures Honoree
  • 2012 - National Conference of Black Political Scientists Graduate Student GAP Award
  • 2011 - Princeton University Alumni Prize in Improving Race Relations
  • 2011 - Columbian College Distinguished Scholar Award
  • 2007 - National Coca-Cola Merit Scholarship
  • 2007 - Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Merit Scholarship



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

Selected Publications

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

Nuamah, Sally A. (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.

Research Interests

Professor Nuamah’s research sits at the intersections of race, gender, education policy, and political behavior. In particular, she uses quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the political consequences of public policies across the United States as well as in Ghana and South Africa.

Her dissertation, and recently completed book manuscript, examines the political effects of mass public school closure on low-income African Americans. Professor Nuamah’s first book, How Girls Achieve (2019), looks across race and gender and illuminates the unequal costs—school closure, sexual harassment, punishment—that poor black girls in the United States, Ghana and South Africa bear while striving to achieve. It then investigates the specific role of schools to combat these abuses and act as conduits of democratic equity.

Professor Nuamah’s newest research seeks to build on this work by investigating the impacts of black women and girls’ disproportionate experiences with punishment on their participation in American democracy.

In the future, she plans to expand this investigation to Ghana and South Africa as well. Her work has been published in academic journals including the American Education Research Journal, the Journal of Urban Affairs and the Urban Affairs Review, and has been featured in popular media including the Washington Post, and TEDx. For this work, she was recently awarded the prestigious Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, named a Susan Clarke Young Scholar AND Clarence Stone Scholar from the Urban Politic Section of the American Political Science Association.


Works In Progress

2021 Closed for Democracy: The Cost of Participation in the Era of Mass School Closure
Every year, nearly 2,000 public schools are closed across the United States. In 2013, Chicago and Philadelphia closed more public schools in a single year than any other school district in U.S. history. Across both cities, over 20,000 students were affected, 90% of which were either Black or Latinx and low-income. The large-scale and targeted nature of these school closures raises serious questions about the equitable distribution of public goods and its impacts on the political beliefs of Americans. Namely, when public schools close, what message does this send to those affected about their value as citizens? What lessons do those affected learn about the efficacy of political participation? Further, how do decisions to close schools impact the life and death of a democracy? Closed for Democracy takes these questions on and illustrates how exposure to the threat of mass public school closure contributes to citizens negative attitudes not only toward the policy, but also government and politics, broadly. Blacks and Latinx citizens, in particular, hold these negative political attitudes despite contrasting policy rationales that promote public school closures as beneficial for their academic achievement. In fact, the book highlights how Black and Latinx citizens become the most likely to participate in community meetings, to advocate for an elected school board and to turnout to vote following the announcement of mass school closure in their communities. Nonetheless, the lack of substantive policy response from the government undermines their belief in the power of political participation, even when they are successful at keeping some schools open (as lasting policy change appears elusive). Altogether, the book ultimately reveals that when schools shut down, so do affected citizens' access to, and belief in, American democracy.

2022 How the Punishment of Black Women and Girls Affects our Democracy
Black women have higher rates of political participation compared to all other sociodemographic groups in the United States, and women with higher levels of education and their families typically fare better economically. Black girls, however, are suspended from school at higher rates compared with white girls and boys. In this project, supported by her Carnegie Fellowship, Nuamah will explore if those disproportionate experiences with punishment, and black girls’ negative involvement with institutions such as criminal justice and education systems, could depress rates of political participation among black women—and what this might ultimately mean for democracy itself.

Last Updated: 2020-07-02 14:32:02