JHU mourns beloved scholar, activist, colleague Shani Mott

Shani Mott

AGHI joins the rest of the Johns Hopkins and Baltimore communities mourning the recent loss of Professor Shani Tahir Mott, a beloved and revered leader in Africana Studies, History, and housing equality. Professor Mott passed away on March 12, 2024, at age 47 after a battle with cancer. She is remembered by her husband, Professor Nathan Connolly (History), their two children, and a wide network of scholars and students who held her in the highest regard.

As reported in the Hub:

“Shani welcomed my family into her home and made us feel a part of her and Nathan’s circle of close friends, which is to say, she made us feel like family,” [Professor Minkah] Makalani said. “In this all too brief time, she also displayed a generosity of heart that was matched by a generosity of intellect. A constant presence and member of the Center for Africana Studies faculty, her spirit and thoughtfulness were always on display in how she engaged our work, mentored her students, and did the hard work of helping build the center. She always displayed the best qualities of Black Study, insisting that we join the demanding scholarly standards of the field with a commitment to the socio-political concerns of Black people beyond the academy. Shani Mott’s value to the Center for Africana Studies cannot be underestimated. But it is her smile, laughter, and her friendship that will be missed most by myself and my family.”

The Hub

Moreover, according to Mott’s obituary in the New York Times:

Dr. Mott was diagnosed with cancer in 2021, but colleagues said she continued to keep a packed schedule of teaching and outside projects. Days before her death, she gave an eight-hour deposition in the appraisal suit, Dr. Connolly said. She declined to take her pain medication, he added, so that she would be able to respond to questions with clarity.

“She burned through two oxygen tanks and was in a wheelchair the entire time,” Dr. Connolly said. “And her ability to speak forcefully and to be direct and, frankly, to be so crystal clear about how real estate works and, in particular, instruments within the structure of a mortgage transaction, it was a master class.”


Mott was among the principal investigators for the Housing Our Story oral history project, whose aim was “to preserve individual histories of Black workers at Johns Hopkins in an effort to make the archival record more representative of the people who ‘weave Hopkins into the social and political fabric of Baltimore,’ yet whose stories remain largely absent from institutional memory.”

Mott further helped create a YouTube series, “Storytime,” involving her family during the COVID-19 pandemic, reading “a selection of children’s books that each celebrate Black diaspora history in global and historical contexts” (History dept.). Said her colleague Professor Tobie Meyer-Fong (History), “The amazing work she and her family did on ‘Storytime with Dr. Connolly’ reflects her creativity and range of her intellectual and personal commitments” (Baltimore Sun).

Dr. Mott was kind, thoughtful, fierce, and loving. She will be missed.