This month we highlight the research of Fellows from the class of 2023–24 whose projects look at the immediate and extended social effects of incarceration, resistance in the midst of captivity, and efforts to confront persistent legacies of injustice that resonate to the present day.
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.
This month we highlight the research of Fellows from the class of 2023–24 whose projects consider the ways that humans and environments act upon one another, challenging people physically, culturally, and ethically to commune, negotiate, innovate, and adapt.
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.
This month we highlight the research of Fellows from the class of 2023–24 whose projects consider the role that music plays in shaping lives. From churches in medieval Iberia to movie houses in the Soviet bloc to the streets and dancehalls of New Orleans and Nigeria, these scholars are examining music’s profound power to reveal and reimagine the world around us.
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.
This month we highlight the research of Fellows from the class of 2023–24 whose projects focus on the voices of women, from medieval hagiographers to contemporary rappers, exploring the ways that an author’s gender influences her perspective—across genres, eras, and geographies.