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Melvin Patrick Ely, a native of Richmond, Virginia, took undergraduate and graduate degrees in history at Princeton University, studied linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin, and served as a postdoctoral fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies, University of Virginia. He has taught in public high schools in Virginia and Massachusetts, at Yale University, and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since 1995 he has taught at the College of William and Mary, where he is currently Newton Family Professor of History and Black Studies. He is the author of The Adventures of Amos 'n' Andy: A Social History of an American Phenomenon, and co-translator, with Naama Zahavi-Ely, of The Handicap Principle: A Missing Piece of Darwin’s Puzzle, by Amotz and Avishag Zahavi.