In March 1850, five men and two women were photographed in the studio of South Carolina artist Joseph Zealy. When these daguerreotypes were uncovered in 1976, they quickly became some of the best-known pre-Civil War images of enslaved African Americans. Gregg A. Hecimovich (NHC Fellow, 2015–16; 2022–23) is asking important questions about why these images were captured, how they were lost for so long, and what they might tell us about legacies of white supremacy and enslavement in the United States.
Jontyle Theresa Robinson, “Curating Change: ‘Bearing Witness’ and the Legacy of African American Women Artists”
In 1996, an exhibition entitled “Bearing Witness: Contemporary Works by African American Women Artists,” was produced for the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art’s contribution to the Olympic games held in Atlanta, Georgia. Today, Jontyle Theresa Robinson (NHC Fellow, 2022–23) is undertaking a multi-tiered initiative to reflect upon and advance the work of that exhibition thirty years later.
Theatrical productions allow playwrights and audiences alike to engage with historical and contemporary social realities. But what are the consequences when particular types of dramatic texts and performances are inadequately disseminated and preserved? Elena Machado Sáez (NHC Fellow, 2022–23) is analyzing the ways that Latinx theater in the United States depicts forms of activism and resistance while building shared archives and communities.
The British writer, reformer, and criminologist George Cecil Ives lived through a transformation in our collective understanding of sexuality, witnessing the rise of sexology and psychoanalysis. But he did not simply observe these social changes; he chronicled them exhaustively through his published works, correspondence, scrapbooks, and a three-million-word diary. Brian Lewis (NHC Fellow, 2022–23) has analyzed these records to help us to understand how individuals actually experienced these philosophical and social shifts.
The influence that Nina Simone and Langston Hughes have had on American music, literature, and culture can hardly be overstated. However, the relationship between these two figures has received little to no attention from scholars to date, despite their long history of collaboration. W. Jason Miller (NHC Fellow, 2022–23) is conducting research into this partnership in order to inform new understandings about the intersections between art and politics in the Black Arts Movement of the mid-twentieth century.
As an art form, opera has proven to be simultaneously entertaining and relatable to diverse audiences, even though it has also been characterized by associations with whiteness and elitism. Naomi André (NHC Fellow, 2022–23) is working to tell a more comprehensive and inclusive story of this genre by constructing a history of Blackness in opera from the nineteenth century to the present.
In this podcast, Paul S. Sutter (NHC Fellow, 2021–22), professor of history at the University of Colorado, Boulder, discusses the historical origins of yellow fever and malaria, complicating widespread opinions about these diseases of “the tropics” during the construction of the Panama Canal.
Paul Ushang Ugor, “Socially Responsible Cinema: Femi Odugbemi’s Artistic Vision and the Evolution of Nollywood”
One of the most influential figures in Nigerian filmmaking is the writer, director, and producer Femi Odugbemi, whose work encourages public awareness of political and ethical issues across Africa. In this podcast, Paul Ushang Ugor (NHC Fellow, 2021–22), associate professor of English at Illinois State University, explores the legacy of Odugbemi's filmmaking and the evolution of Nollywood cinema.
In this podcast episode, Maggie M. Cao (NHC Fellow, 2021–22), associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, discusses how nineteenth-century American landscape painting can help us to understand imperialism as a global and historical concept. By examining paintings from this period, we can trace how complex attitudes about cultural relations were represented and disseminated to a wider public.
In this podcast, Howard Chiang (NHC Fellow, 2021–22), associate professor of history at the University of California, Davis, discusses how tracking the emergence and adaptation of psychoanalysis in China allows us to understand the effects of cultural and disciplinary exchange on emerging intellectual discourses.