James Steele hails from Akron, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio University where he led the movement that established one of the first African American studies programs in the United States. He has extensive experience in electoral politics, governance, public policymaking, and legislative mobilization, including as deputy district director for the late Congressman Major R. Owens, legislative director for City Council Member Annette M. Robinson, and for the past 20 years, special assistant to Congressman Gregory W. Meeks. His activities include being the Brooklyn coordinator for a Community Service Society non-partisan voter registration project, a consultant with NYC Voter Assistance Commission, and an Open Society Institute community fellowship that enabled him to launch a civic participation project in collaboration with the DuBois Bunche Center for Public Policy and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College as well as conduct a training in democracy and government for AFSCME District Council 1707’s political action committee. He also directed a voter outreach initiative for the NYS Council of Black Elected Democrats.

Professor Steele’s association with the Murphy Institute began in 1999 as an adjunct instructor in its Labor and Civic Participation Program. He also taught courses at JSMI on Democracy and Power, Contending Forces and Ideas, Public Issues and Public Policy. He designed and continues to coordinate the Murphy Institute’s Civic Engagement and Leadership Development course, and has also contributed to its New Labor Forum publication and been a moderator and panelist at numerous forums and conferences.


Selected Publications


Recent News

  • B.A. Ohio University, Cutler Program (individualized interdisciplinary studies now known as the Ohio Scholars Program)

  • civic engagement
  • political analysis
  • leadership development

  • “Election 2008: A Mortal Blow to the Politics of Racism?” New Labor Forum, 18, Issue 1, Winter 2009.
  • “The Geography of Defeat,” New Labor Forum, Vol. 14, Issue 1, Spring 2005.
  • “The Right Wing in the U.S. Congress: Challenges for Black Leadership” in Race and Politics in the United States: New Challenges and Responses for Black Activism, Dr. James Jennings, editor, (Verso Press).
  • Freedom’s River: The African American Contribution to Democracy (Franklin Watts — Grolier Publishers, 1995).
  • “Shaw v Reno: Historical Framework and Political Implications,” paper, prepared for Southeastern
  • “Policy Assets and Political Mobilization in Defense of the Next Generation,” a memorandum, prepared for statewide summit on “The Crisis of Children of African Descent,” sponsored by the New York State Legislative Task Force on African American Issues, Albany, New York, December 1993.
  • “The Outlook for the November 1992 Election,” New York City, prepared for the Labor Research Association, August 1992.
  • “Coalition-Building and Voter Mobilization Among Targeted Constituencies,” political research, prepared for GTM Program Services, Washington, D.C. March 1992.

  • Moderator, Labor 101 (for NY City Council members and staff), May 2016
  • Roundtable participant, Conference Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Atlanta, GA., July 2015.
  • “Race and the 1996 Presidential Elections,” presentation and panel facilitator, National Black Student Leadership Network and the Children’s Defense Fund annual conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • “BPCS Issue Briefing: 1994 Elections and the Implications of Republican Control of the 104th Congress,” prepared for New York State Legislative Task Force on African American Issues and the New York State Council of Black Elected Democrats (November 1994).
  • “BPCS Issue Briefing: Impact of Shaw v Reno on African American Political Empowerment,” North Carolina A & T State University Symposium, Greensboro, North Carolina, April 1994.
  • Regional Conference of the NAACP, Hilton Head, South Carolina, March 1994.

  • Government
  • Politics and the Policymaking Process
  • Public Issues and Public Policy
  • Campaigns and Elections
  • Labor and Politics
  • Contending Ideas and Forces

  • Executive Director, New York State Council of Black Elected Democrats, 2002

James Steele