Petrine Archer-Straw grew up in Birmingham, England during the 1960s in an atmosphere of “... racial pride, and activism” (Back to Black 35). Her father arrived England in 1955 as a linotype press operator and subsequently sent for his family to join him. (BTB 35) Archer Straw notes that her home was a hub for the community (BTB 36). These were extremely formative experiences for the young Archer-Straw who also recalls how she “would do the rounds [on Sunday] with my father, .... joining in house to house campaigning and, in the summer, attending the numerous rallies and protest marches. (BTB 36). However, this community work eventually drew the ire of the right wing British National Front and the family subsequently moved to Jamaica, where Dr. Archer Straw finished high school and started university. (BTB 36)
Petrine Archer-Straw earned a Theology, History, Sociology B.A. at the University of the West Indies B.A. (1975—78) and later earned a Cultural History M.Phil (1983—87) at the same institution. She was also trained as an artist at the Jamaican School of the Arts (Diploma. Painting, 1979—82). Her most recent degrees came from the Courtauld Institute at the University of London, where she earned an M.A. in Art History and Ph. D (Art History Modern, [Negrophilia] 1994-95).
Petrine Archer-Straw has published numerous books and catalogs including Eugene Palmer (Oct. 1993, in collaboration with Jane Norrie), New World Imagery (Oct. 1995), Negrophilia: Avant-Garde Paris and Black Culture in the 1920s (Nov. 2000), Fifty Years, Fifty Artists (May 2001), and Back to Black: Art, Cinema & the Racial Imaginary (June 2005, in collaboration with David A. Bailey, and Richard J. Powell). Additionally, she taught at the Courtauld Institute at the University of London (lecturer 1994-1995), served as the first Head of Art History at the Edna Manley College for the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica (2002—2005), and served as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow (2005—2006) and Visiting Lecturer (2006—Present) at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
Petrine Archer Straw has recently completed a two year residency as a faculty guest in the Telluride House at Cornell. More recently, she taught the Caribbean Dialogs Live! course at TASP 2008 (Telluride Association Summer Program) with Professor Petrina Dacres.