Letter From The Editor & Director


Welcome to our new, refereed, online, open-access multidisciplinary journal.  The Backbone offers a unique perspective on research related to peoples of African descent. The idea for the journal emerged at the beginning of Summer 2014 when Dr. Fatimah Jackson, Professor of Biology and Director of the Cobb Research Laboratory asked Ms. Chioma Oruh, doctoral candidate in Political Sciences at Howard University, to be the editor of the new journal. The Backbone is the official journal of the W. Montague Cobb Research Laboratory. The earliest conceptualizations of the journal and solicitations for manuscripts were from Ms. Oruh. Once the Fall semester began, Dr. Carolyn Shuttlesworth, instructor in the Department of English at Howard University, took on the journal's editorship. We are grateful to have had the enthusiasm and experience of both and we congratulate them on the emergence of our premier issue.

This issue covers a broad array of topics.  Dr. Fatimah Jackson and Mr. Christopher Cross provide an overview of the work of the Cobb Research Laboratory and Dr. Marisella Gomez, a Baltimore physician and scholar-activist discusses the use of the Cobb Collection to study health disparities. Mr. Jeff Gaillard traces the origin of the Lemba, a Jewish people of southern Africa and Dr. Rosina Hassoun looks at the challenges facing Arab Americans and their interactions with African Americans.  Ms. Samantha Obuobi looks at the sociological tradition of public health, tying this to one of the priorities of Dr. Montague Cobb and Dr. Shomarka Keita, Washington DC physician and scholar-activist calls for increased cooperation between historians and geneticists, particularly in the reconstruction of African and African Diasporic origins. As a special feature we focus on Dr. William Montague Cobb with a profile of his life by Ms. Brittney Morning and Ms. Yah Kamei and a summary of one of his treatises on the human biology of the African American by Mr. Jeff Gaillard.  An excerpt from a memoir by the late Mr. Lateef Salahuddin, a local Washington DC author, is also included.  Abstracts reflect the current work of the Cobb Research Team and provide an overview of the scientific investigations underway. We hope you enjoy this premier issue of The Backbone. 

Here's to a new beginning!

Editorial Board

  • Carolyn E. Shuttlesworth, Ph.D.

  • Marjorie Gondre-Lewis, Ph.D.


  • Fatimah L.C. Jackson, Ph.D.

  • Cynthia Henderson, Ph.D.