Rachel Zellars

Dr. Rachel Zellars, Assistant Professor

Department of Social Justice & Community Studies
Saint Mary's University
Halifax, NS, B3H-3C3
Phone: 902-420-6617

Rachel Zellars

Academic Biography

  • PhD, McGill University, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, 2017
  • JD, Loyola Law School, 2003
  • MA, Cornell University, Africana Studies, summa cum laude, 2000
  • BA, Howard University, Philosophy, summa cum laude, 1997

Originally a farm girl from upstate New York, Rachel B. Zellars is a lawyer and assistant professor in the Department of Social Justice and Community Studies at Saint Mary’s University. Prior, she served as a FQRSC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Vermont in the Department of History, where her research focused on the history of Black migration and slavery in the Maritimes beginning in the 18th century.

 Dr. Zellars’ research focuses, broadly, on the histories of anti-black schooling segregation in Canada; migration and slavery in the Maritimes and throughout the Atlantic world from the 18th century; and the historical impact of gender violence in the lives of Black women.

As a longtime organizer and facilitator, Dr. Zellars’ community work focuses on supporting survivors of gender violence; researching and supporting community accountability structures within Black communities; and working to transform small-scale social conditions that nurture and sustain violence within communities. She co-founded the transformative justice hub, Third Eye Collective, in 2013. She formerly served as the Executive Director of a national organization for girls and young women and also served as director of The Green School, an alternative, earth-focused French Montessori school from 2007-2014 in Montreal.

 Dr. Zellars is also a nationally recognized expert in implicit bias who researches the relationship between bias and anti-blackness. She is a sought-after facilitator for organizations, not for profits, schools, and universities. Dr. Zellars has regularly facilitated critical implicit bias trainings throughout Canada since 2012, and also works as a consultant for the Canadian Human Rights Commission. 


  • Black migration in Maritime Canada and the Atlantic world, 1700-1865
  • Slavery and forms of resistance in Canada
  • Comparative histories of slavery, gender, and the law
  • Gender violence and Black radical traditions
  • Transformative justice
  • Radical pedagogical practices
  • Anti-blackness and implicit bias

Courses Taught

  • Gender and the Law
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Critical Race Feminism
  • Critical Race and Indigenous Theory in Education
  • Politics of Identity
  • Introduction to Feminist Studies
  • Production of Subjectivity in the Work of Felix Guattari and Saidiya Hartman (co-taught with Erin Manning)
  • Multicultural Education

Selected Publications

Zellars, R. (2019)."Too Tedious to Mention": Pondering the Border, Black Atlantic, and Public Schooling in Colonial Canada. Left History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Historical Inquiry and Debate 23, (1)

Zellars, R. and Batraville, N. (2019). Refusing the Biopolitical State: An Interview with Nathalie Batraville. Black Representives Journal. African American Intellectual History Society.

Zellars, R. and Batraville, N. (2019). À partir de quelles bases appréhende-t-on le racisme anti-noir dans la sphère culturelle au Québec? Spirale 268, Printemps.

Zellars, R. (2019). “As if we were all struggling together”: Black organizing, gendered violence, and Black women’s activism in Montréal. Women’s Studies International Forum.

Zellars, R. (2019). Rethinking Black and Indigenous life on Turtle Island. Black Perspectives Journal. African American Intellectual History Society.

Zellars, R. (2018). Shame and the kinship of sexual violence. In W. French (Ed.), Black writing matters. Regina, SK: University of Regina Press.

Zellars, R. (2018). Aretha Franklin, sexual violence, and the limitations of dissemblance. Black Perspectives Journal. African American Intellectual History Society.

Zellars, R. (2018). Reading Black on both sides: A racial history of trans identity. A rountable of Black on both sides: A racial history of trans identity. Black Perspectives Journal. African American Intellectual History Society.

Zellars, R. (2016). Race words: The case for mandatory implicit bias training for Canadian educators. Directions Journal: Research & Policy on Eliminating Racism, 7.

Zellars, R., & Smolash, N. (2016). If Black women were free, Part 1: Practising transformative justice in Black communities. Briarpatch. Retrieved from https://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/if-black-women-were-free