About Our Public Humanities Fellowships
All Public Humanities Fellows will receive a $15,000 stipend to support a four-month project.
Fellows will receive access to both the University of Virginia’s library system and the archives available at the Library of Virginia to complete their projects. They will become part of a community of fellows working on innovative humanities topics in the public interest and will have the opportunity to share their ideas with other fellows working in related fields. They will also have the opportunity to participate in programs such as our With Good Reason radio show and podcast, Virginia Festival of the Book’s Shelf Life, and the Library of Virginia’s UncommonWealth blog.
Preference will be given to projects that engage the public in meaningful and creative ways and explore issues around public humanities topics related to subjects such as history, literature, religion, community stories.
- April 30 2024: Application deadline
- June 2024: Decisions announced
- July 2024: Fellowships may begin as early as July 1, 2024
- June 2025: Fellowship projects should conclude no later than June 30, 2025
Public Humanities Fellows 2023
Matthew Slaats has a 20 year history working at the intersection of participatory democracy, the arts, community development, and alternative economics to support grassroots, community lead decision-making, resilience, and liberation. This work covers a wealth of territory, from environmental to food justice projects, participatory budgeting to public art.
Matthew is presently completing a Ph.D at the University of Virginia School of Architecture partnering with public housing residents to tell their history of Black led social transformation in the Southern US. At the same time, he is consulting with the City of Richmond on the creation of a city wide participatory budgeting initiative that will give residents a say over $3 million annually of the City budget. Throughout all these efforts he seek to balance practice and scholarship to explore the meaning and infrastructures that drive community lead transformation.
Redevelopment – Our Community/Our Selves is the continuation of a deep partnership with Charlottesville based Public Housing Association of Residents (PHAR). The project will use oral histories to tell the important process of public housing redevelopment, which PHAR has led and stands in contrast with the demolish of public housing communities across the US. Together, centering the voices of residents, we will tell what has made this possible, the lived experiences of residents going through the process, the ongoing struggles, and the vision they have for the future. We will then work with the National Public Housing Museum to place these stories in relationship to a breadth of others to show the vitality and vision that is held in all public housing sites.
Dr. Elsabe (Ina) Dixon
Elsabe (Ina) Dixon is a historical consultant and a Danville, Virginia enthusiast. As a historical consultant, Ina assists private developers in historical rehabilitation projects and works closely with local communities to ensure that each project captures its peopled history. Ina’s current work focuses on the past, present, and future of a textile company, Dan River Mills, and their mill village of Schoolfield in Danville. Ina has a PhD in American Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill, where she wrote her dissertation on the racial and economic legacy of Dan River Mills. With the support of this Public Humanities Fellowship, Ina will further the story of Dan River Mills and its village with a physical and digital exhibit for public display in revitalized buildings within Schoolfield.
Perri Meldon is a PhD candidate at Boston University, where she studies environmental and public history. Her dissertation explores the creation of Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, with a focus on land management and multispecies interactions from the Reconstruction Era to the present. She also serves as a History Fellow with the National Park Service, assisting with historic preservation and interpretive and educational programming. Perri lives in Charlottesville, VA.
“Mapping Conservation and Cultural Heritage in the Great Dismal Swamp” documents the wetland’s environmental and social histories. This “interpretive tour” will integrate audio and visual features into a 360-degree virtual exploration, to be featured on Encyclopedia Virginia. “Mapping Conservation and Cultural Heritage” arrives at a critical time, as the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2024. As a protected landscape, the swamp is a migratory waterfowl habitat and a treasured recreational site. Prior to the Civil War, the swamp also served as a site of marronage, or self-emancipation of enslaved African Americans. While local black and Nansemond communities have long recognized the swamp’s cultural value, the wildlife refuge has only recently come to interpret these histories of placemaking.
This mapping project will highlight how southeast Virginia’s unique ecosystem fostered an environment of enslaved resistance; logging and natural resources extraction; and the passing-on of fishing and hunting traditions. It will invite visitors to explore the Great Dismal Swamp remotely from their home and reflect on its importance to Virginia—indeed, American—history.
Alicia Marbury Aroche is an award-winning film writer, director, and producer, whose work has been recognized in the U.S. and internationally, including Toronto, Montréal, Madrid, and Cannes. One of her recent films, Sunlight Around the Corner, won best short documentary at the Festival International du Pan Africain de Cannes, in Cannes, France in 2021. In the U.S., Alicia’s work has been screened or exhibited at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA; Galaxy Gives in New York, NY; and the Academy-Award qualifying RSF Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival.
For the Public Humanities Fellowship, Alicia will become immersed in funk, jazz, and soul archival and field research, and also delve into the historical and present-day contexts of Richmond, VA as critical aspects of this narrative. Funk, jazz, and soul music hold special significance and meaning in the U.S. Black culture. They have been awakening and healing forces, and the soundtrack for safety, celebration, joy, and pain. This project aims to pay homage to artists with Richmond origin stories, or who spent formative years in the city. Many have gone on to become influencers and pioneers in these genres and beyond. Some of these artists we know by name, some we know by the music.
Activated through film, this research will be bracketed by stories and performances from multigenerational and up-and-coming Richmond-based artists who will reflect on these musicians’ influences, and how they envision themselves carrying these legacies forward.
Hunter Shackelford is a Black nonbinary multidisciplinary artist, writer, and independent researcher. Their work focuses on the historical impacts of antiblack terror and gendered violence within our contemporary worlds. Their project, Afrolantica: Virginia’s Fugitive Legacies, is an art-research project that seeks to unearth the disappeared stories of fugitive slaves of Virginia who found their own versions of freedom through any means necessary. Using Black feminist frameworks and socially-engaged design, Afrolantica seeks to answer the question: ‘Who is Virginia to the Maroon, and who is the Maroon to Virginia?’ As Saidiya Hartman names, we are living in the afterlife of slavery. We are, then, always in temporal kinship to the means used to escape it. Afrolantica will be presented as an art exhibition in the fall of 2023.
Dr. Ma’asehyahu Isra-Ul
Dr. Ma’asehyahu Isra-Ul is a 25th year educator/historian carrying a Postgraduate Professional Teaching License with endorsements in History & Social Sciences/Admin. & Sup. PreK-12. He has earned certificates in Advanced Spanish (Cuauhnáhuac Institute of Language and Culture) and Jewish Context & Culture Studies (Israel Bible Institute). He also holds four double content degrees in education and history—a Bachelor of Arts, Master’s of Education, Education Specialist and Doctor of Education from Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania and Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia respectively. He is the host of the Leading By History Podcast and founder of the Black Judaic Heritage Center.
His project-Through the spectacles of Ethiopia: Garveyism, Black Judaism and the Virginia Commonwealth-is a research-based project that aims to explore the intersection of Garveyism, Black Judaism, and the state of Virginia in the early 20th century. This project seeks to explain the philosophy of Marcus Garvey and how it influenced early Black Judaic/Jewish groups in Virginia. The research for this project will involve an extensive review of historical documents, including primary and secondary sources. The project will also involve interviews with scholars and experts in the fields of Garveyism and Black Judaism. Additionally, the project will include field research in Virginia to examine the historical context of early Black Judaic communities.