Tag: Harvard University

Michigan State University Receives $1.5 Million Grant to Build Slave Trade and Ancestry Database

MSU African Studies Center Facebook Cover Photo (via facebook)

via newsone.com

$1.5 million grant gifted to Michigan State University by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will go towards the cultivation of a database that harbors information about former slaves, MSU Today reported.

The database, which is part of the institution’s Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade initiative, will encompass data surrounding those who came to America during the Atlantic slave trade; giving individuals the opportunity to explore their ancestry, the news outlet writes. Individuals who utilize the database will also be able to view maps, charts, and graphics about enslaved populations.

The project is being spearheaded by Dean Rehberger, director of Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at MSU, Walter Hawthorne, professor and chair of MSU’s Department of History and Ethan Watrall, who serves as an assistant professor of anthropology at the university.

MSU Today reports that the project will go through several phases and take nearly a year and a half to be completed.

Hawthorne believes that the database will allow scholars to delve deeper into the dark history of slavery. “By linking data compiled by some of the world’s foremost historians, it will allow scholars and the public to learn about individuals’ lives and to draw new, broad conclusions about processes that had an indelible impact on the world,” he said in a statement, according to the source.

Michigan State University has one of the top African history graduate programs in the country and leaders at the institution believe that this new project will further its impact in this space. Institutions who have partnered with MSU for the project include Emory University, Vanderbilt University, Harvard University, the University of Maryland and others.

Slavery has been a common topic at colleges and universities across the country with many institutions coming forward to acknowledge and come to terms with their ties to slavery. Rutgers University recently paid tribute to former slaves by renaming parts of its campus after individuals who built the university from the ground up.

Source: MSU Today

Charleston-Born Artist Sunn M’Cheaux to Teach Gullah Language Class at Harvard

COURTESY OF SUNN M’CHEAUX

by  via charlestoncitypaper.com

A renewed interest in Gullah has propelled the language to one of the highest rungs in academia.

Charleston native and performance artist Sunn m’Cheaux spent the fall semester at Harvard teaching an introductory version of a course on Gullah: A language indigenous to the Lowcountry region often described as a combination of English and Central and West African languages.

The pidgin language originally allowed enslaved African people from various tribes to communicate with each other and with their overseers, and is still spoken by African-American communities across coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

The Gullah class is the first of its kind at the Ivy League school. It’s part of the African Language Program within the Department of African and African American Studies.

The class is the brainchild of a graduate student who knows m’Cheaux. The student phoned him and asked if he would be willing to meet with the head of the program, Dr. John Mugane. M’Cheaux, who graduated from Goose Creek High School and didn’t go to college, found that Dr. Mugane was impressed with how quickly m’Cheaux was able to teach him some Gullah basics.

“He starts talking about getting my information and taking a picture for the website, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wait a minute — did I just get hired?'” m’Cheaux said in a phone interview with CP.

Mugane argues that offering Gullah, along with the 44 other languages taught in the program, increases students’ chances of accurately portraying different communities. “To engage in intellectual and professional work in the Gullah community, we deem it necessary even critical that scholars be literate in Gullah whose basic demonstration is an ability to hold non-trivial conversations with the people they write about, including (and especially) in Gullah, the language of the people they write about,” Dr. Mugane said in an e-mail to CP.

M’Cheaux says that his time bouncing between Charleston, Los Angeles, and New York as an artist and activist influenced his teaching methods. “Ultimately, my arts and entertainment career kind of dovetailed into social activism and commentary, and in a sense, I feel like this is an extension of that as well,” m’Cheaux said. “How to use literal and figurative language to communicate with people and teach people how to make it their own.”

This kind of approach is especially necessary with Gullah — a language that is passed down orally without established standards for grammar and spelling. Aspects of the language may be familiar to English speakers, such as “han’ baby,” which means small infant, and “knee baby,” which can be interpreted as toddler in English.

“I want to build these students’ intuition in order to know when to apply something literally and figuratively, because that will help bring the language to life,” m’Cheaux said. “Those are figurative terms, not necessarily literal terms, but once you look at them literally, it makes total sense.”

M’Cheaux uses the few Gullah reference books and literature available as course materials, but has largely stuck to developing his own curriculum throughout the semester, which includes video chats between students and native speakers.

To read more, go to: https://charlestoncitypaper.com/TheBattery/archives/2017/12/19/harvard-introduces-gullah-class-taught-by-a-charleston-born-artist

Colson Whitehead Honored by Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation for his Acclaimed Novel “The Underground Railroad”

Author Colson Whitehead (photo via shelflife.cooklib.org)

via jbhe.com

Colson Whitehead recently won the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for fiction presented by the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation. Whitehead was honored for his novel The Underground Railroad (Doubleday, 2016).

The book tells the tale of a slave woman named Cora who escapes from a cotton plantation in Georgia. During her journey North on the Underground Railroad, she kills a young White man who was trying to capture her. The novel has previously won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction, and the Carnegie Medal of Excellence.

A graduate of Harvard University, Whitehead also won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002. Whitehead has taught at the University of Houston, Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Hunter College, New York University, Princeton University, Wesleyan University, and been a Writer-in-Residence at Vassar College, the University of Richmond, and the University of Wyoming.

Source: Colson Whitehead Honored Once Again for His Novel The Underground Railroad : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

ASU History Professor Matthew Delmont Wins Guggenheim Fellowship to Study African Americans’ Views on World War II

ASU Professor Matt Delmont (photo via twitter.com)

via jbhe.com

Matthew Delmont, a professor of history and Director of the School of Historical, Philosophical & Religious Studies at Arizona State University, has received a Guggenheim Fellowship that will allow him to conduct research on how African American viewed World War II at the time the war was being waged.

“African-Americans rallied around something called the ‘double-victory campaign,’ which meant victory over fascism abroad and victory over racism at home,” Professor Delmont said. “There was a great amount of hope that by proving their patriotism, by proving their service to the country in World War II, things would be different once they got home. In a lot of cases, that didn’t happen.” Dr. Delmont will conduct interviews but he notes that “Black newspapers will be one of the main sources. They had war correspondents embedded in Europe and Asia, and they were dodging enemy fire to bring these stories to the communities in the U.S.”

Professor Delmont is the author of several books including Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation (University of California Press, 2016) and The Nicest Kids in Town: American Bandstand, Rock ‘n’ Roll, and the Struggle for Civil Rights in 1950s Philadelphia (University of California Press, 2012). The tentative title for the book that he hopes will come from this research is To Live Half American: African Americans at Home and Abroad During World War II.

Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Professor Delmont is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in American studies at Brown University. He joined the faculty at Arizona State University in 2014 after teaching for six years at Scripps College in Claremont, California.

Source: Arizona State Historian Wins Fellowship to Study African Americans’ Views on World War II : The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education

Grammy Award Winner Esperanza Spalding Joins Harvard’s Department of Music as a Professor

Esperanza Spalding (Photo: Sandrine Lee)

via blavity.com

Esperanza Spalding is at the top of her field. She’s won just about every award a musician can win: four Grammys, a Smithsonian award, an NAACP Image Award, a Frida Kahlo award, a Boston Music Award — we could go on for ten minutes. And now, according to a press release from Harvard University, Spalding is going to teach others how she did it.

The bassist and singer has been appointed the a professor of the practice in the university’s Department of Music. The university’s professors of the practice are individuals “who have a national or international reputation as leaders” and who are “the best in the field.” That certainly sounds like Spalding. The press release refers to the artist as “a national treasure with global resonance” who “stands apart for the intelligence and deep sense of humanity” found in her work.

This won’t be Spalding’s first time in front of students, either. She taught at Boston’s Berklee College of Music from 2005 to 2008, and has instructed many pupils as an artist in residence in the years since. At Harvard, Spalding will lead courses in songwriting, improvisation and performance. The school also promises that Spalding will bring her “commitment to music as a voice for social justice” to the classroom with her.

To read full article, go to: Esperanza Spalding Is Now A Harvard Professor | BLAVITY

R.I.P. Dr. S. Allen Counter, 63, Noted Neurophysiologist, Ethnographer and Founding Director of Harvard Foundation of Intercultural and Race Relations 

S. Allen Counter (photo via news.harvard.edu)

by Rachael Dane via news.harvard.edu

S. Allen Counter, the founding director of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations and a noted neurophysiologist, educator, and ethnographer, died on July 12.  According to wikipedia.com, Counter was also known for his achievements as an explorer. In 1971, he located a group of people living in the rain forest in northern Brazil, Surinam and French Guiana; the group was descended from African slaves who had escaped from slave ships. In 1986, Counter located descendants of earlier U.S. explorers of the arctic, Matthew A. Henson and Robert E. Peary. Counter was elected to The Explorers Club in 1989. Counter also designed Arthur Ashe‘s memorial at Woodland Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, dedicated on what would have been Ashe’s 50th birthday on July 10, 1993.

“Harvard has lost a great champion of inclusion and belonging in Dr. Allen Counter,” said President Drew Faust. “Through his leadership of the Harvard Foundation, he advanced understanding among members of our community and challenged all of us to imagine and strive for a more welcoming University and a more peaceful world. We remember today a campus citizen whose deep love of Harvard, and especially our undergraduates, leaves a lasting legacy.”

“During my years as president of Harvard, no one did more than Allen to make minority students feel welcome and at home at Harvard, to promote fruitful interaction among all races, and to serve as understanding adults to whom many undergraduates could turn in order to register their concerns, answer their questions, and have their legitimate problems communicated to the Harvard administration so that they could be understood and acted upon in appropriate ways,” recalled Derek Bok, who led the University from 1971–91 and from 2006–07. “Much of what he accomplished was unrecognized, but his contributions were invaluable, and I will always feel a great debt of gratitude for his service to the University.”

Counter did his undergraduate work in biology and sensory physiology at Tennessee State University and his graduate studies in electrophysiology at Case Western Reserve University, where he earned his Ph.D. He earned his M.D. at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. He came to Harvard in 1970 as a postdoctoral fellow and assistant neurophysiologist at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. Early in his University career, Counter lived in a student residence hall as dormitory director, resident tutor, and biological sciences tutor.

In the early 1970s, the U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Department of Health and Human Services) named him to the National Advisory Mental Health Council of the National Institute of Mental Health. In 1975, several proposals came before the council requesting funding for projects involving psychosurgery and electrode implants in human brains. At that time, the government’s rules protecting human subjects were still evolving, and Counter believed the projects were inherently racist. He insisted the council not approve them, and they were not acted upon.

In the same decade, Counter taught inmates at MCI Concord with the Massachusetts Correctional Concord Achievement Rehabilitation Volunteer Experience, where he said he gave inmates the same advice his grandmother had given him: “Read a book. Develop your mind.” A later study showed that participants in the program had a lower recidivism rate than prisoners who did not take part. After a sabbatical fellowship at UCLA with neuroscientist Alan D. Grinnell in the late 1970s, Counter returned to Cambridge, where his research at Harvard Medical School focused on clinical and basic studies on nerve and muscle physiology, auditory physiology, and neurophysiological diagnosis of brain-injured children and adults. Continue reading “R.I.P. Dr. S. Allen Counter, 63, Noted Neurophysiologist, Ethnographer and Founding Director of Harvard Foundation of Intercultural and Race Relations “

Tracy K. Smith Named New U.S. Poet Laureate by Library of Congress

Tracy K. Smith (Photograph © Rachel Eliza Griffiths)

by Sophia Nguyen via harvardmagazine.com

Tracy K. Smith has been named the new U.S. Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress, succeeding Juan Felipe Herrera. While the role doesn’t carry many specific official duties, it has traditionally involved raising awareness of, and increasing access to, poetry. “I am excited about the kinds of social divides that poetry may be able not just to cross but to mend,” Smith said in an interview with the library.

“One of my favorite things in the world is to sit and talk quietly about the things poems cause me to notice and remember, the feelings they teach me to recognize, the deep curiosity about other people’s lives that they foster. I am excited about carrying this conversation beyond literary festivals and university classrooms, and finding ways that poems might genuinely bring together people who imagine they have nothing to say to one another.” Smith has authored four books of poetry, the most recent of which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Her memoir Ordinary Light was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2015.

In later chapters, she describes going to Harvard (where she joined the Dark Room Collective) as her mother’s health began to fail. In poetry workshops, she writes, “I had discovered that sitting down with an idea and letting it unfold in words and sounds offered me not just pleasure but an indescribable comfort.” Her new collection, Wade in the Water, comes out next April.

To read full article, go to: Library of Congress names Harvard alumna Tracy K. Smith as new Poet Laureate | Harvard Magazine