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, Amherst College

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, University of Miami

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.

Maxim Matusevich

Assistant Professor of World History, Seton Hall University

Address:
104 Mt. Auburn Street, Floor 3R
E-mail:
matusema@shu.edu

Biography

Maxim Matusevich is Assistant Professor of World History at Seton Hall University. A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, he received his BA in History from the University of Oklahoma, and then obtained his MA and Ph.D. in African Studies and African History from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1999 he served as Visiting Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos, Nigeria. His first book No Easy Row for a Russian Hoe: Ideology and Pragmatism in Nigerian-Soviet Relations, 1960-1991 (Africa World Press, 2003) reflected an enduring interest in the history of political and cultural encounters between Africa and the Soviet Union. Most recently he edited and contributed to an interdisciplinary volume Africa in Russia, Russia in Africa: Three Centuries of Encounters (Africa World Press, 2006). In 2007 he was awarded a short-term residential research fellowship at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC.

Project Description

An Exotic Subversive: Africa, Africans, and ‘Africanness’ in Soviet Popular Culture and Imagination

This project expands the disciplinary and geographical boundaries of East European and African studies and establishes a natural link between the two fields. Reflective of the growing scholarly and popular interest in diasporic and transnational narratives my research focuses on the history and significance of African presence in the “Soviet spaces.” The explosion of racism and xenophobia in post-Soviet Russia has its fuse going deep into the Soviet past. This study will reveal and explore the utility of Africa and Blackness not only in the official foreign policy discourse of the Soviet Union but also in the Soviet everyday. While the African-Russian connection rarely attracted serious and sustained scholarly attention either in Russia or in the West it, in fact, represents a uniquely singular transnational story of political and cultural encounters and adaptation. In this respect, the project has a special interdisciplinary agenda to dramatically expand the newly emerging field of Black European Studies. By establishing the essential continuity of Russian-African ties from past to present I would like to “de-exoticize” this historical connection, an important scholarly and educational task indeed considering that the many myths and misrepresentations surrounding the history of African presence in Russia have provided a fertile ground for the growth of post-Soviet racism.

Gretchen Long

Assistant Professor of History, Williams College

Address:
104 Mt. Auburn Street, Floor 3R
E-mail:
glong@williams.edu

Biography

Gretchen Long is an Assistant Professor of History at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where she teaches courses in African American History, American Women’s History, and American Medical History. She received her B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1989 and her Ph.D. in History from the University of Chicago in 2004. Professor Long has received fellowships and funding from the Mellon Foundation and the Newberry Library in Chicago. Her current research interests center around the role of medical practice in African American History and she is particularly interested in African Americans’ experiences, both as patients and caregivers, from the Civil War through the early years of the twentieth century. During her tenure at the Du Bois Institute, she will be working on her book project entitled Doctoring Freedom: The Politics of African American Medical Care, 1840-1910.

Project Description

Doctoring Freedom: The Politics of African American Medical Care, 1840-1910

Throughout the Civil War, Reconstruction, and into the early decades of the twentieth century, the medical condition of black people was problematic on several levels. Ex-slaves suffered disproportionately from malnutrition, chronic diseases, and acute illnesses. In the expressed concerns of federal officials, apologists for slavery, and - intriguingly - black people themselves, medical care, health, and illness were intertwined with conceptions of citizenship, freedom, and patriotism. It is the role of medical practice in the formation of specific ideas about African American citizenship that my current book project investigates. The project departs from previous work on black medical care during slavery and the Emancipation era. The focus of much prior work has been the nature of the diseases and care that slaves and freed people received, especially as compared with the experiences of white people. The aim is not a quantitative analysis of African American medical care, nor a narrative of the diseases that African Americans fell prey to, but rather, a cultural and historical exploration of the way medical practice, health, and illness fit into nineteenth-century American ideas about freedom and race.

Paul Kaplan

Paul Kaplan

Professor of Art History, Purchase College, SUNY

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

Biography

Paul Kaplan is Professor of Art History in the School of Humanities at Purchase College, SUNY, where he joined the faculty in 1988. He is a graduate of Hampshire College and Boston University, where he received his doctorate in 1983. He has also taught at Wake Forest University. He is the author of The Rise of the Black Magus in Western Art (Ann Arbor, 1985) and of numerous essays on European images of black Africans and Jews, and on political, military and feasting imagery in Venetian art, especially in the work of Giorgione, Titian and Veronese. He held a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship in 1993-1994. In 2002-2003 he served as Project Scholar for the artist Fred Wilson’s “Speak of Me as I Am,” an installation in the American Pavilion at the 2003 Venice Biennale, and contributed to the catalogue for that exhibition. In 2008 he was a fellow of the Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University. He is a major contributor to volumes 2, 3 and 4 of Harvard University Press’s new edition of The Image of the Black in Western Art (2010-2012). He is one of the consultants and catalogue essayists for the Walters Art Museum’s exhibition on images of Africa and Africans in sixteenth-century European art, opening in the fall of 2012. His current work includes research on the role of black Africans in Venetian art and society, the changes in European images of black Africans around 1600, and the intersections of race and art in the writings of nineteenth-century American and British visitors to Italy.

Project Description

Authority and Servility: Black African Protagonists and Attendants in Italian and European Art, ca. 1600-1635

My project aims to explore and explain a substantial group of rich and often surprising European images of black Africans from the first third of the seventeenth century, produced by Italians as well as artists from other European regions (Germany, France, the Low Countries, Britain, Spain) who had been influenced, both directly and indirectly, by Italian visual and literary culture. This is, of course, the era of Othello (first performed 1604), an English play based on an Italian short story, but there is a case to be made that visual images produce an even more complex array of black African characters than do the texts of this period. I will argue that visual depictions of black Africans appear with special frequency and ideological and aesthetic power during these decades, and play a leading role in European constructions of difference at a highly charged moment when both colonialism and Catholic evangelization begin to assume more familiarly modern forms. This wave of innovative and interconnected representations emphasizes both black authority and servility. On the one hand, there are several key images which articulate the spiritual and political authority of particular black Africans (real and imagined) who nevertheless endorse Western norms and venerate Western leaders; on the other hand, there is a rapidly expanding set of images of black Africans as subsidiary figures in portraiture, which nevertheless testify to the increasingly important role of black African slaves and free servants in European court culture.

The central set of images in my study are those which record – in sculpture, painting and prints – the much anticipated arrival in Rome and sudden demise of the ambassador of the Christian kingdom of Kongo (Antonio Manuel, marquis of Ne Vunda) during the first days of 1608. This event brought together a growing body of evangelical aspirations and expectations which had begun to flourish in Rome already in the 1590s. The story of the Magi provided the most important conceptual framework for this visit; as the Wise Men had visited Christ in Bethlehem, Ne Vunda had come to venerate the pope in Rome. Though one of the Magi had come to be regarded as a black African throughout European art by the end of the 1400s, Ne Vunda’s visit gave this iconographic convention a new importance and vitality, manifested not only in Rome but also in the Catholic Low Countries in the works of Rubens. Ne Vunda’s visit also precipitated the foundation of a new institution, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide), the Roman Church’s most focused response to the challenge of evangelization, which was founded on the Feast of the Magi (Epiphany, Jan. 6), 1622. By 1635 the Propaganda had built a massive headquarters in Piazza di Spagna, with an internal church dedicated, unusually, to the Three Magi; on its high altar was installed a grand image of the Adoration of the Magi, by Giacomo Gimignani, dominated by a massive figure of a black African Wise Man and King. This pious ruler and his two black African attendants remain, even today, the only explicit representatives of the non-European world in the artistic decoration of the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide, which has long been the center of the Catholic mission to evangelize the globe.

Meanwhile, between 1608 and 1629, Ne Vunda himself was memorialized in a striking funerary portrait in S. Maria Maggiore (by Caporale), in narrative frescoes in the Vatican (by G. B. Ricci), in a medal, in two elaborate engravings (which alternately show him in the dress of his native Kongo and in European costume), and perhaps most remarkably in the frescoes of the Sala Regia in Pope Paul V’s summer palace on the Quirinal hill (by Lanfranco and Tassi). Here Ne Vunda, with an Ethiopian envoy and six other sets of extra-European diplomats, demonstrates his enthusiastic endorsement of papal sovereignty.

I hope to demonstrate that Ne Vunda’s visit was connected to a number of other important social phenomena and images involving black Africans. These include the rise of the cult of St. Benedict the Moor (d. 1589), whose first effective depiction in the visual arts dates to the mid-1630s; the rapid growth of portraits of members of Italian and other European elites attended by black African court servants, in works by van Dyck, van Deynen, Suttermans and many others; and the appearance around 1610 of hardstone statues of black Africans, by the Rome-based Nicholas Cordier and others. Many of these works emphasize the humility and obedience (to white masters) of black Africans, but the dark figures are nevertheless usually presented as strikingly beautiful, and sometimes endowed with a real sense of agency. The tension in these works between condescension and admiration helps to clarify some of the assumptions embedded in the images of Ne Vunda.

Carla Kaplan

Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature, Northeastern University

Address:
104 Mt. Auburn Street, Floor 3R
E-mail:
c.kaplan@neu.edu

Biography

Carla Kaplan is the Davis Distinguished Professor of American Literature at Northeastern University where she is developing a Center for the Study of Biography and Cultural History. She received her Ph.D. from Northwestern University and has held teaching appointments in English, African-American Studies, Gender Studies, and American Studies at Yale University and the University of Southern California before moving to Northeastern in fall of 2006. She is the author of The Erotics of Talk: Women’s Writing and Feminist Paradigms, and Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters, which was a finalist for the NAACP Image Award, a New York Times “Notable Book” and chosen three times as a “best” book by The New York Times. She is also editor of Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk Tales from the Gulf States, Dark Symphony and Other Works by Elizabeth Laura Adams, a forthcoming Norton Critical Edition of Nella Larsen’s Passing (due in 2007), and a forthcoming Norton Critical Edition of Nella Larsen’s Quicksand. She has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the NEH, the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the Beinecke Library, the Harry Ransom Research Center, and others, and has served on numerous editorial boards, including American Literature, PMLA, and American Quarterly. Her current project, Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance, a group biography, is forthcoming from HarperCollins.

Project Description

Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance

Little could be more unusual in the 1920’s than for white, upper-class women to seek to become, in effect, honorary blacks. Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance identifies and documents an extraordinary group who did just that. A group biography and cultural history, this book focuses on six exemplary figures representing two generations of approximately four dozen white women -- hostesses, patrons, comrades, lovers, writers, mothers, and white women passing for black -- who sought to become Harlem Renaissance insiders. In different ways, all attempted to cross race lines seen as impenetrable by their contemporaries – both white and black. By making themselves socially unintelligible and courting ostracism, they confounded available categories and introduced many of our own critical ideas about the flexibility or “play” of social identity. These women complicated their culture’s notions of identity. Through them, this book historicizes “identity politics&148; and investigates why people invest in both “other” and “their own” identities. Miss Anne in Harlem: The White Women of the Black Renaissance is forthcoming from HarperCollins.

Karla FC Holloway

Professor of English and of Law, Duke University

Address:
104 Mt. Auburn Street, Floor 3R
E-mail:
khollow@fas.harvard.edu

Biography

Karla FC Holloway, Ph.D., M.L.S., is the Arts and Sciences Professor of English at Duke University. She also holds appointments in the Law School and in two interdisciplinary programs—Women’s Studies and African and African American Studies. Her research and teaching focus on African American cultural studies, biocultural studies, ethics, and law. Her board memberships, including the Greenwall Foundation’s Advisory Board in Bioethics, Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies, and Princeton University’s Advisory Council: Program in the Study of Women and Gender, reflect her scholarly interests. She is the author of more than thirty essays including “Cruel Enough to Stop the Blood: Global Feminisms and the U.S. Body Politic, or: ‘They Done Taken My Blues and Gone’” (Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 7:1), and “Accidental Communities: Race, Emergency Medicine and the Problem of Polyheme” in The American Journal of Bioethics 6:3. Professor Holloway is the author of six books, most recently Passed On: African-American Mourning Stories and BookMarks--Reading in Black and White, A Memoir. She has won numerous national awards and foundation fellowships recognizing her scholarship, most recently the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Residency Fellowship. Professor Holloway’s public essays on race, ethics, and culture appear frequently on National Public Radio.

Project Description

Private Bodies/Public Texts: Bioethics and Literature

Private Bodies/Public Texts is a book length series of essays that explore contemporary issues in bioethics from the space of fiction. The organization of my project illustrates the books’ argument that literary studies can both assist and inform our public discussions of twenty-first century identities—those bodies that are the subjects of bioethics’ inquiry. At the heart of these essays is my argument that race and gender, as noticed within the law, are implicated in some of the most complex issues in bioethics—reproduction, DNA, right-to-die, and clinical trials—even as these embodied complexities are simplified into notions of “identity” and “community” in public discussions of medical practice, scientific inquiry, and legal status. Private Bodies illustrates how literature’s creative engagements with difference mediate the very subjects in bioethics that have led to such significant debates in public fora. My goal is to indicate how a focus on narrative fiction might help center otherwise unwieldy discussions of race and gender in bioethics regarding a body’s privacy.

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