Gregg Hecimovich

Gregg Hecimovich

Professor and Chair of the Department of English, Winthrop University

Address:
104 Mount Auburn Street, 3R, Cambridge MA 02138

Biography

Gregg Hecimovich is Professor and Chair of the Department of English at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  He earned his BA at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, where he won the Louis D. Rubin Jr. Prize for most outstanding creative writer in his graduating class and graduated Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude in both English Literature and Creative Writing.  He earned his MA and PhD at Vanderbilt University where he was awarded the Graduate Student of the Year Award.  He is the recipient of numerous teaching awards including the University of North Carolina Board of Governors Distinguished Professor for Teaching Award and the Max Ray Joyner Award for innovative teaching with technology.  Hecimovich is the author of four previous books.  His most recent work includes contributions to the new edition of Hannah Crafts’s best-selling novel, The Bondwoman’s Narrative, for which he co-wrote a new preface with the work's editor, Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr., based on research from Hecimovich's book-in-progress, due out from Ecco/HarperCollins.  The research Hecimovich has conducted on this project has garnered front-page attention in The New York Times, a review essay in The New Republic, and support from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as previous grant support from the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at the Hutchins Center.

Project Description

The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts: The True Story of The Bondwoman's Narrative

In 2001, Henry Louis Gates Jr. purchased a manuscript at auction titled "The Bondwoman's Narrative by Hannah Crafts a Fugitive Slave Recently Escaped from North Carolina." Dr. Gates authenticated it, and then published it in 2002 to great fanfare. The work became an instant New York Times bestseller. While Dr. Gates identified the slave author’s probable master as John Hill Wheeler, he did not locate the mixed-race, fugitive slave named Hannah Crafts. In residence for the 2014-2015 academic year as a Sheila Biddle Ford Fellow, I will work on my manuscript, The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts: The True Story of The Bondwoman's Narrative, which identifies the first, black female novelist as Hannah Bond “Crafts” and tells the story of her life and the search for her identity. 

 

To uncover Hannah Bond’s story—and to authenticate her identity as author of The Bondwoman’s Narrative—my work recreates, as far as it is possible, the circumstances of the novel’s production. To disclose the “true story” of The Bondwoman’s Narrative, The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts establishes the case for Hannah Bond by telling the stories of Hannah Bond’s friends and predecessors, the seven Wheeler-related slaves who are potential rivals for authorship of the novel.  By recovering the experiences of these slaves, The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts builds the evidentiary profile necessary to uncover Hannah Bond’s story and to establish the origins of her manuscript.  Through the power of imaginative art and the alchemy of fact and fiction, Hannah Bond’s astonishing novel comes to represent not only the story of her own life, but also the lives and times of her slave sisters.  The Life and Times of Hannah Crafts tells the story of a generation of slaves as it uncovers a Dickensian tale of love, friendship, betrayal, and interracial intrigue against the backdrop of America’s slide into Civil War.

Philippe Girard

Philippe Girard

Professor of History and Department Head, McNeese State University

Address:
104 Mount Auburn Street, 3R, Cambridge MA 02138

Biography

Dr. Philippe Girard is Professor of History and Department Head at McNeese State University. A native of Guadeloupe, he specializes in the history of the Caribbean, and particularly Haiti. He is the author of four books: Clinton in Haiti: The 1994 US Invasion of Haiti (Palgrave 2004); Haiti: The Tumultuous History (Palgrave 2010); The Slaves Who Defeated Napoléon: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian War of Independence (University of Alabama Press, 2011); The Memoir of General Toussaint Louverture (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Dr. Girard is also the author of numerous articles on the Haitian Revolution, including “Toussaint Before Louverture: New Archival Evidence on the Early Life of Toussaint Louverture,” William and Mary Quarterly (Jan. 2013); “Jean-Jacques Dessalines and the Atlantic System: A Reappraisal,” William and Mary Quarterly (July 2012); and “Black Talleyrand: Toussaint Louverture’s Secret Diplomacy with England and the United States,” William and Mary Quarterly 66:1 (Jan. 2009), 87-124.

Project Description

Toussaint Louverture: A Biography

Philippe Girard is researching the life of Toussaint Louverture to complete the first scholarly biography in the English language on Haiti's most famous revolutionary leader, Toussaint Louverture: A Biography.

Devyn Spence Benson

Devyn Spence Benson

Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies, Louisiana State University

Address:
104 Mount Auburn Street, 3R, Cambridge MA 02138

Biography

Dr. Devyn Spence Benson is an Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies at Louisiana State University. Benson received her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the field of Latin American History, where her research focused on racial discourses during the first three years of the Cuban revolution. She has taught at UNC-Chapel Hill, Williams College, and now LSU. She is the author of published articles and reviews in the Hispanic American Historical Review, Journal of Transnational American Studies, and PALARA: Publication of the Afro-Latin / American Research Association. Benson’s work has been supported by the Doris G. Quinn, Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS), and Gaius Charles Bolin dissertation fellowships. She has also held residencies at the Oakley Center for the Humanities and Social Sciences at Williams College and the Arturo Schomburg Center for Research in Black Studies in Harlem while revising her book. Benson is currently completing her manuscript, Not Blacks, but Citizens: Race and Revolution in Cuba. The book examines the links between race and revolution in Cuba after 1959 and the effects those connections had on Afro-Cuban lives. Using the voices of Afro-Cubans living with and having to compromise with the revolution, Benson’s research seeks to reconcile stories of post-1959 black censorship with narratives of revolutionary opportunity. This project has also led her to explore connections between Cubans of African descent and African Americans before and after the Cuban Revolution.

Project Description

Not Blacks, But Citizens: Race and Revolution in Cuba

Dr. Benson's project is a transnationally based history of the rhetoric, ideology, and lived experience of race and racism during the 1959 Cuban revolution and the early 1960s. Benson's manuscript tackles the question of how ideas about racial difference, racist stereotypes, and racially-discriminatory practices persist, survive, and reproduce themselves despite significant state efforts to generate social and racial equality. How can racism and equality exist together?  Benson explores these questions using the case study of the 1959 Cuban revolution and Fidel Castro’s public campaign against discrimination in the 1960s.  Pushing past existing scholarship that has established the persistence of racism in on the island, especially after the Special period crisis of the 1990s revealed sharp inequalities in contemporary Cuba, Benson shows that not only were early revolutionary programs ineffective in eliminating racism, but that they frequently negated their own anti-racist efforts by reproducing traditional racist images and idioms, especially in public representations of blacks in revolutionary propaganda, cartoons, and educational materials. Using newly released sources and the voices of Afro-Cubans whose lived experiences highlight the nuances of negotiating life as a peripheral citizen during the revolution, Benson's manuscript offers a way to reconcile stories of post-1959 black censorship with narratives of revolutionary opportunity and exposes the limits of state action—even a revolutionary state’s actions—to eliminate racial discrimination.

John Drabinski

John Drabinski

Professor of Black Studies

Address:
104 Mount Auburn Street, 3R, Cambridge MA 02138
E-mail:
jdrabinski@fas.harvard.edu

Biography

John E. Drabinski is Professor of Black Studies at Amherst College in Amherst, MA. He specializes in francophone and anglophone Caribbean cultural theory and the history of African-American thought, with special emphasis on the philosophical strands in those traditions. His most recent book is Levinas and the Postcolonial: Race, Nation, Other, and he is completing both a book-length study of Édouard Glissant's poetics entitled Abyssal Beginnings and a translation with critical introduction of Bernabé, Chamoiseau, and Confiant's In Praise of Creoleness. His current book project, tentatively entitled Fragment Home: Baldwin and the Black Atlantic, offers a philosophical reading of James Baldwin's non-fiction work in relation to a range of black Atlantic thinkers, from early African-American thought to contemporary Caribbean critical theory.

Project Description

Fragment Home: James Baldwin and the Black Atlantic

Over my year at the Du Bois Institute, I plan to draft my book-length study of James Baldwin tentatively titled Fragment Home: Baldwin and the Black Atlantic. The aim of Fragment Home is to read Baldwin as a philosopher – someone whose claims about identity and home draw upon an extensive, systematic set of concepts: time, race, memory, history, language, justice, and the nature of collectivity. Baldwin's work has long been appreciated as part of literary history and the history of public intellectual work. But, I claim, Baldwin's unique philosophical voice has not been given full treatment. In writing such a treatment, I put his work in critical conversation with African-American thinkers such as Delany, Du Bois, Locke, and after, as well as black Atlantic theorists from Senghor and Césaire to Glissant and Gilroy. Those conversations reveal how deeply and uniquely Baldwin has engaged the philosophical foundations of the black intellectual tradition, as well as his relevance to contemporary debates about language, memory, and history.

George Wilson

George Wilson

Professor of Sociology

Address:
104 Mount Auburn Street, 3R, Cambridge MA 02138

Biography

George Wilson is Professor of Sociology at the University of Miami. His research interests focus on the institutional production of racial/ethnic inequality in the American workplace and the social structural determinants of race-specific attitudes about the American stratification system. Professor Wilson received his PHD from Johns Hopkins University.

Project Description

Occupational Mobility and Racial Inequality in the Evolving Public Sector

I am examining the dynamics of racial inequality in workplace-based outcomes (wages, upward and downward mobility) in the rapidly evolving public sector. Long the “occupational niche” where African Americans achieved relative parity with Whites in workplace-based outcomes during the post-1965 civil rights era,  “new governance reform”,  has fundamentally transformed the conditions of public sector employment, and, along the way, caused racial dynamics to increasingly unfold in a similar manner to the more discriminatory private sector.

Christopher Lee

Christopher Lee

Lecturer in International Relations

Address:
104 Mount Auburn Street, 3R, Cambridge MA 02138
E-mail:
cjlee1@email.unc.edu

Biography

Christopher J. Lee is a lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where he has a joint appointment with the Department of International Relations and at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA). He previously taught in the United States and Canada at Stanford, Harvard, and Dalhousie Universities and at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He received his PhD in African history from Stanford University. Trained as a socio-cultural historian, his teaching and research interests concern the social, political, and intellectual histories of southern Africa. His recent work has addressed decolonization and the politics of the Indian Ocean during the Cold War. His articles and essays have appeared in the Journal of African History, Social History, Law and History Review, Politique Africaine, Gender and History, Transition, Radical History Review, Research in African Literatures, Postcolonial Studies, Historical Materialism, Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Kronos: Southern African Histories, and elsewhere. His journalism and commentary have appeared in the Mail & Guardian (South Africa), the Cape Times (South Africa), Foreign Policy, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Christian Science Monitor. He is the editor of Making a World After Empire: The Bandung Moment and Its Political Afterlives (2010). He has two books appearing in 2014, Unreasonable Histories: Race, Nativism, and the Genealogical Imagination with Duke University Press and Frantz Fanon: Radical Empathy as Politics with Ohio University Press.

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