Published June 26, 2023

Virginia Humanities, the state humanities council, has awarded nine individual Fellowships for 2023–24.

Four of the new fellows are part of the HBCU Scholars Fellowship Program and are affiliated with Virginia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“This is our second cohort of HBCU Fellows,” shared Virginia Humanities’ director of Community Initiatives, Yahusef Medina, who launched the program in 2022. “We are excited about the opportunities arising as a result of the work our scholars are doing and look forward to the continued impact their research will have on the humanities and academia more broadly.”

HBCU fellowships are made possible by a major grant from the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation built on their long record of support for HBCUs.

The remaining five fellows are part of the Public Humanities Fellowship Program which helps writers, independent scholars, community historians, and college and university faculty members share meaningful research, stories, and cultural expressions that are relevant to Virginia’s diverse communities.

“Virginia Humanities has a nearly fifty-year track record of supporting research into the history and culture of the state,” said Sue Perdue, director of Grants and Fellowships and Virginia Humanities’ chief information officer. “This group of new Public Humanities Fellows builds on that work by uncovering new stories that are vital to understanding who we are as Virginians.”

HBCU Fellows:

Brenton Boyd
Emory University, PhD Candidate
World Wrecking: Afro-Eschatology and the Spirit of Performance

World Wrecking: Afro-Eschatology & the Spirit of Performance retheorizes apocalyptic theology with a view to the end of the colonial world and its antiblack organizing structures. Blending black theology, literary criticism, and critical ethnography, this project devises a new close reading practice that treats black speculative writing and ritual performance, in particular, not as sociocultural artifacts but as “(meta)spaces” in which the End might be foretold, conjured, imagined, and inhabited.

Dr. Scott Challener
Hampton University
Practicing the Impossible: Translation and the Postwar Poetry of the Americas

Practicing the Impossible: Translation and the Postwar Poetry of the Americas argues that the translation practices of postwar poets situated in the U.S., Brazil, and Puerto Rico transformed the internationalism of the poetry of the Americas. At the heart of this research is the claim that practices of translation entailed encounters with impossibility and incommensurability that changed the very terms on which U.S. and Puerto Rican poets spoke to and conceived of their audiences.

Dr. Latorial D. Faison
Virginia State University
The Missed Education of the Negro: An Examination of a Black Segregated Education Experience in VA

This research examines the Mid-Twentieth Century Black segregated education experience in rural Southampton County, Virginia, from 1950 to 1970. This researcher holds that graduates of Black schools in the segregated South dispel myths and prove that Black educators defied systemic odds to nurture, cultivate, and commission Black achievement and excellence in students of color during one of the darkest eras in history.

Dr. Bianca Jackson
Norfolk State University
Black Cultural Trauma in Selected Vocal Works of Composers – Price, Still, Smith Moore, and Bonds

This research project will survey vocal works of Black classical composer contemporaries of the twentieth century (Florence Price, William Grant Still, Undine Smith Moore, Margaret Bonds) and their creation of music to express the culturally traumatic experiences of being Black in the United States. The researcher will argue that the composers’ music can be considered not only as a means of historical representation but as a form of social protest.

Public Humanities Fellows:

Alicia Aroche
Henrico, In Residence at the Library of Virginia
Give Up the Funk : The Untold Story of Richmonders as Pioneers of  Funk, Jazz, and Soul Music

This project will highlight Richmond’s deep contributions to jazz, soul, and funk, and the lesser-known artists from Richmond who were pioneers in these genres. For example, Jerome Brailey, drummer for the iconic funk group Parliament Funkadelic, and co-writer of the timeless hit Give up the Funk: Tear the Roof off the Sucker who is from Richmond, VA and an alumnus of the same high school as this Public Humanities Fellow.

Elsabe (Ina) Dixon
A Dan River Fabric: The Life and Legacy of the Schoolfield Community 

This research project advances a public exhibit on the history of Schoolfield, a mill village founded in 1903 by the southern textile company that produced fabric for home and apparel in Danville, Virginia from 1882-2006, Dan River Mills.

Dr. Ma’asehyahu Isra-Ul
Through the spectacles of Ethiopia: Garveyism, Black Judaism and the Virginia Commonwealth

This research-based project aims to explore the intersection of Garveyism, Black Judaism, and the state of Virginia in the early 20th century. The project seeks to explain the philosophy of Marcus Garvey and how it influenced early Black Judaic/Jewish groups in Virginia.

Perri Meldon
Mapping Conservation and Cultural Heritage at the Great Dismal Swamp

This mapping project documents the environmental and social histories of the Great Dismal Swamp, located in southeastern Virginia. The Great Dismal Swamp “interpretive tour” will integrate audio and visual features into a 360-degree virtual exploration.

Hunter Shackelford
Woodbridge, In Residence at the Library of Virginia
Afrolantica: Virginia’s Fugitive Legacies

This socially-engaged research art project is designed to narrate and illustrate the underrepresented stories of Marronage and slave fugitivity in Virginia. Maroons, escaped slaves, were those who built worlds outside of the perimeters of slave territories and outside of the value of colonization (i.e. swamps, attics, etc.). Afrolantica will be presented as an art exhibition in which research and cultural narratives will be used as mediums to ground the art in a historical context.

Matthew Slaats
Redevelopment – Our Communities, Ourselves

In partnership with Public Housing Association of Residents, this oral history and podcast project will document the redevelopment of public housing that is currently taking place in Charlottesville. Unlike other cities, where public housing is being torn down, Charlottesville is rebuilding these homes and setting a national paradigm.

To learn more about Virginia Humanities’ fellowship programs, visit VirginiaHumanities.org/fellowships.

Vanessa Adkins, right, is apprenticing under her cousin Jessica Canaday Stewart learning the finer points of traditional Chickahominy dancing. Photos taken at the Fall Festival and Pow Wow in Charles City on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.

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