David A. Varel
David A. Varel is a historian of the modern United States who specializes in intellectual history, African American history, the history of race and class, and the civil rights movement. His research examines the socio-historical construction of race, paying special attention to the role of Black intellectuals in combating scientific racism during the first half of the twentieth century. His current book manuscript, The Lost Black Scholar: Resurrecting Allison Davis in American Social Thought, 1902-1983, explores these themes through the neglected career and thought of Black anthropologist Allison Davis. It is under contract with the University of Chicago Press.
Varel earned his Ph.D. from the Department of History at the University of Colorado in 2015. During the previous academic year, he was a lecturer in the Department of History and Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where he taught courses in modern U.S. history, African American history, and U.S. Intellectual History. He is also a licensed history teacher at the secondary level. Before graduate school, he taught high school in the Chicago area, which is where he was born and raised.
Besides the upcoming book, Varel has had his work accepted for publication in various journals, including the Journal of Negro Education, American Studies, and Knowledge Cultures. His research and writing has also been funded by a number of grants and fellowships, including a Robert L. Platzman Memorial Fellowship from the University of Chicago Library and two dissertation-completion fellowships through the University of Colorado—one from the Graduate School and the other from Department of History.
Dr. Cookie Woolner is the 2014-15 Postdoctoral Fellow in African-American studies at Case Western Reserve University. She recently completed her PhD in the History and Women’s Studies joint program at the University of Michigan. Dr. Woolner is currently revising her dissertation, “‘The Famous Lady Lovers:’ African American Women and Same-Sex Desire from Reconstruction to World War II,” which is the first in-depth examination of African American women who loved women in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. It looks at performing women and everyday women, the queer social networks they created in the urban North, and the discourse that circulated about the emerging conception of lesbianism in the larger black community.
Dr. Woolner completed her B.A. at Hampshire College in Gender Studies and Cultural Studies and received an M. A. in the Humanities from San Francisco State University. For 2013-14 she served as a Graduate Fellow at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. Her dissertation research has been supported by an African American Collections Fellowship from the Manuscript, Archive, and Rare Book Library at Emory University, a Black Metropolis Research Consortium Short-Term Fellowship from the University of Chicago, and in 2011 she served as a Martin Duberman Visiting Scholar at the New York Public Library.
Born in New York City and raised in Washington, D.C., I received my Ph.D. in US history at the University of Maryland, College Park, where my dissertation was the recipient of the University of Maryland’s Ann G. Wylie dissertation award and the E. B. and Jean Smith Dissertation Prize in Political History. As a scholar of the post-1945 period, my areas of research and teaching include state and racial politics, African American and Latino/a history, urban history, labor history and working-class culture, critical race theory, political and sexual violence, social movements, and civil rights. Following my year of postdoctoral work at Case Western Reserve University, I was the Public Historian of the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston. Currently, I am assistant professor of US history (20th century, race and politics, post-1945 history) at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.
My forthcoming manuscript, Civil Rights on the Cell Block: The Prisoners’ Rights Movement and the Construction of the Carceral State, 1945–1990, has been supported by my postdoctoral fellowship at Case Western Reserve University, as well as by fellowships at the Center for Historical Analysis at Rutgers University and Southern Methodist University’s Clements Center for the Study of Southwestern America. Civil Rights on the Cell Block reexamines the southern prisoners’ rights movement of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s and the subsequent construction of what many historians now call the era of mass incarceration and the “New Jim Crow.” By placing the prisoners’ rights movement squarely in the labor organizing and civil rights mobilizing traditions, my work reconceptualizes what constitutes “civil rights” and to whom it applies. Focusing on 1945 to the mid-1990s when the nation’s prison population skyrocketed from 300,000 to 2.1 million and became disproportionately Black and Latino, Civil Rights on the Cell Block exposes how the criminal justice system, which was at the heart of an older racial and labor order, fueled a prison-made civil rights movement. My manuscript shows that this inmate civil rights rebellion, while mounting a successful legal challenge, was countered by a new prison regime – one that utilized paramilitary practices, promoted privatized prisons, endorsed massive prison building programs, and embraced 23-hour cell isolation—that established what I call a “Sunbelt” carceral state approach that became exemplary of national prison trends. The manuscript is currently in revision.
In addition to the manuscript, I am co-editing an anthology that will bring together historians of immigration and migration, civil rights, Chicano/a studies, Black Power, Native American studies, and political economies to explore the connections between immigration studies and carceral states in the US southwest and borderlands. In our treatment of the prison and its contexts – including such topics as the relations between prison growth and political power, questions of citizenship, social and racial hierarchies, the persistence of violence and riot, and the emergence of the carceral state – we seek to extend the frontier of scholarship. We aim to build new connections across specialized historical fields (such as immigration, race and civil rights, the American South and West, and global and transnational history) and interdisciplinary exchanges among historically oriented scholars of diverse disciplines (such as sociology, policy and political science, gender and critical sexuality studies, and criminology).
The Case Western Reserve University postdoctoral fellowship in African American Studies is crucially important not only because it provides the precious time that all scholars need to write and research for publication, but because of the intellectually rich and invigorating environment of pioneering scholars that surround the postdoctoral fellow. Professor Rhonda Williams fosters this enriching environment where scholarship confronts social problems and seeks solutions based on social justice. While at CWRU, the postdoctoral fellowship not only allowed me to publish an article and further the revision of my manuscript, but it provided me with the financial and intellectual support to co-host a community program with the American Civil Liberties Union Ohio that brought together nearly one-hundred faculty, students, activists, and community members to discuss the topic “Confronting the Carceral State in Ohio”. This was an invaluable experience for me that I have since drawn upon as I have organized two other similar conferences and public symposiums on the topics of Black Power and mass incarceration. For these experiences, I am especially grateful to Professor Rhonda Williams for her intellectual encouragement and mentorship. Moreover, the postdoctoral fellowship provided the invaluable opportunity to invite a leading scholar of my choice, Professor Yohuru Williams (Fairfield University), to travel to CWRU to deliver a lecture, and to read and evaluate my work. That formative experience with a pioneering scholar whose work I have long admired has provided me with a mentor and intellectual colleague who I continue to call upon for conferences, intellectual advice, and letters of support.
Publications advanced while at CWRU:
“‘Slaves of the State’ Revolt: Southern Prison Labor and a Prison-Made Civil Rights Monvement, 1945–1980,” in Robert H. Zieger, ed., Life and Labor in the New New South (2012).
Civil Rights on the Cell Block: The Prisoners’ Rights Movement and the Construction of the Carceral State, 1945–1990 (forthcoming monograph).
Sunbelt Prisons and the Carceral State: New Frontiers of State Power, Racial Oppression, and Resistance (forthcoming co-edited anthology).
“‘Rioting Peacefully’: Rethinking Sunbelt Prison Rebellions during the 1970s,” in Robert T. Chase and Norwood Andrews, eds., Sunbelt Prisons and the Carceral State: New Frontiers of State Power, Racial Oppression, and Resistance, in preparation.
Jenifer Barclay received her Ph.D. in History from Michigan State University in 2011 after completing a pre-doctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia’s Carter G. Woodson Institute from 2009-11. She has taught widely in African American, Women’s/Gender, and Disability History, most recently at The University of Akron, and is committed to bringing an interdisciplinary, intersectional perspective to both the classroom and her research. For the fall 2013 semester, she will move to the Pacific Northwest to join the faculty of the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University where she will continue teaching and writing on issues dealing with the intersection of disability, race, and gender.
Barclay’s current book project, The Mark of Slavery: The Stigma of Disability, Race and Gender in Antebellum America, examines the lived experiences of enslaved people with disabilities as well as the larger metaphorical, ontological links that antebellum Americans forged between race, gender and disability to shore up tenuous racial categories in these turbulent decades. Drawing on fugitive slave narratives, ex-slave interviews, plantation records, and personal correspondence, she places disabled bondpeople at the center of her narrative to rectify their invisibility in ableist histories of American slavery and illuminate the social relations of disability in slave families, communities, and culture. She also, however, looks beyond day-to-day plantation life and employs disability as a category of analysis to interrogate the ways in which blackness – and the metalanguage of race – was infused with the resounding stigma of disability through the laws of slavery, southern discourses of states’ rights medicine, pro- and anti-slavery political rhetoric, and cultural phenomena such as minstrelsy and freak shows. While a fellow at Case Western Reserve, Barclay conducted additional research for her project at the Dittrick Medical History Center and at nearby Oberlin College and began revising her study for publication. She benefitted tremendously from the keen insights of faculty members who read and commented on portions of her study in workshops and formal talks – including guest speaker Dr. Susan Burch of Middlebury College. These dynamic exchanges allowed Barclay to refine and expand on her research, directly shaping a number of forthcoming articles. These include “The Greatest Degree of Perfection: Disability and Constructions of Race in American Slave Law,” “Mothering the Useless: Black Motherhood, Disability, and Slavery,” and “Laughable Limps, One-Eyed Wenches, and Cross Dressing Dwarfs: Disability on the Minstrel Stage” which will appear in volumes such asWomen, Gender, and Families of Color and the Oxford Handbook on Disability History.
Barclay’s postdoctoral fellowship in African American Studies at Case Western Reserve enabled her to establish a crucial foundation for a strong research agenda that she continue to benefit from; but, equally as important, she was challenged to articulate the relationship between historical research and the ways in which the topics she address continue to echo in contemporary social justice issues.
Dr. Zebulon Miletsky teaches in the Africana Studies department at Stony Brook University where he is a Visiting Assistant Professor. He specializes in Recent African-American History, History of Miscegenation, Interracial Marriage, Urban History, African-Americans in Boston, and Mixed Race and Biracial Identity. Originally from Boston, Zebulon received his Ph.D. in African-American Studies with a concentration in African-American History from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. After completing the Post-Doctoral Fellowship in African-American Studies in the History Department at Case Western Reserve University, having previously served as an Assistant Professor in the Black Studies Department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Teaching and research interests include the Northern civil rights movement, The long Civil Rights movement, Black Power, the Afro-Latin disapora and Hip-Hop pedagogy. On the subject of Hip-Hop, Miletsky gave a talk at Stony Brook this past Spring 2013 as part of the “Africana Presents” series entitled: “The Hip-Hop Generation Re-Mixed: Where Are The Hip-Hop Activists?” In addition to his work on Mixed Race, Miletsky is also interested in the Boston School Desegregation Crisis and the parent-led civil rights movement in Boston. A book anthology is underway which aims to be a collection of recent works by scholars who are re-locating African-Americans back to the center of the busing discussion. . He is the author of numerous articles, essays and most recently a book chapter, “Mutt Like Me: Barack Obama and the Mixed Race Experience in Historical Perspective” which appeared in the anthology “Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for a New American Majority”. A scholar-activist, Miletsky has become involved in progressive politics in New York city around social justice, working with a group called BK Nation. He lives in Brooklyn.
His forthcoming manuscript, Mixed Race on Trial: Whiteness, Passing and the Van Houten Case in Boston, looks at the controversial case of Anna Van Houten, an African-American who, having passed for white, sued her wealthy white fiancé after he broke off their engagement upon discovery of her black ancestry. This study explores the roots of the legal regulation of interracial marriage, racial passing, and the formation of whiteness in the urban North, revealing, through a close examination of Anna van Houten’s remarkable case, the Northern anxieties around these issues in the late nineteenth century. Miletsky did much of the research and writing for this project while a postdoctoral fellow at CWRU. Since that time, the work has moved to the book proposal stage and has attracted keen interest from publishers.
Of his fellowship experience, Miletsky writes: “The purpose of the postdoctoral fellowship as I understood it was to build and enrich the field of African-American Studies by supporting junior scholars in the production of their intellectual work. The scholarly exchange that I benefitted from, through discussions and collaboration with other visiting scholars, as well as opportunities for presentation and feedback, was unparalleled. In the final analysis, the book manuscript project in which I am still engaged simply would not have been as successful, satisfying or enriching without the critical space, time and financial support that this fellowship provided. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Case Western Reserve University is known and respected throughout the field and discipline of African-American Studies, owing to the stellar reputation of Dr. Rhonda Williams. As a nationally known historian and scholar, humanitarian and social activist, her credentials are well documented, and do not need to be repeated here. However, I would be remiss if I did not mention the supreme opportunity and experience of working closely with Dr. Williams. Simply put, it has been nothing less than life-changing. The intellectual tradition of mentorship and generosity out of which this fellowship comes has a long history in African-American life, culture and history. The opportunities for networking and professional growth were unmatched and my work has benefitted from this experience immeasurably. It is perhaps impossible for me to fully put into words what this experience has meant to me–my life and career. I have been forever changed by my experience at Case Western Reserve University and it is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life and career. I too hope to have the opportunity in the tradition of this fellowship to “give back” and will certainly be in a better position to do so as a result of this opportunity. I remain proud to have been the 2010-2011 Post-Doctoral Fellow in African-American Studies and am deeply grateful for the opportunity. Thank you.”
Publications Adanced while at CWRU
I published a book chapter, entitled: “Mutt Like Me: Barack Obama and the Mixed Race Experience in Historical Perspective”, that appeared in the collection “Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for A New American Majority”, edited by Andrew Jolivette; (Policy Press) February, 2012. This essay traces the contested meanings throughout history of terminology for multiracial people and the role that this historical legacy of “naming” plays into how President Obama is read as African American, but still asserts a strategic biracial identity through the use of language, symbols, and interactions with the media. A draft of this was presented in the Department’s “Works-Progress Series”. The feedback I received in that session, both verbal and written was critical to the essay being accepted as a book chapter in the forthcoming book, Obama and the Biracial Factor: The Battle for A New American Majority, edited by Andrew Jolivette; (Policy Press) which will be published in 2012.
Shannen Dee Williams
Dr. Shannen Dee Williams was the 2013-2014 Postdoctoral Fellow in African-American studies at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Williams earned her Ph.D. in African-American and United States history and a graduate certificate in women and gender studies from Rutgers University on May 19, 2013. For the 2012-2013 academic year, she was a lecturer in the history department at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, where she was named “Professor of the Year,” by the Black Affairs Council and the Black Graduate Student Association. She is now an assistant professor of United States and African-American History at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Dr. Williams is currently revising her dissertation, “Subversive Habits: Black Nuns and the Struggle to Desegregate Catholic America after World War I,” into a book manuscript. Her study unearths the hidden history of black sisters in the fight to dismantle racial and gender barriers in the U.S. Catholic Church. When completed, it will be the first historical monograph on black Catholic sisters in twentieth-century America.
Dr. Williams is a native of Memphis, TN and the 2000 salutatorian of Craigmont High School. She earned a B.A. (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in history from Agnes Scott College in 2004 and a M.A. in Afro-American studies from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 2006. In 2011, she was the recipient of one of 21 Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Fellowships (in Religion and Ethics) from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Her research has also been supported by an Albert J. Beveridge Grant from the American Historical Association, the Huggins-Quarles Award from the Organization of American Historians, the Drusilla Dunjee Houston Award from the Association of Black Women Historians, and the John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Award from the American Catholic Historical Association.
Shennette Garrett-Scott is the Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi. Shennette’s research interests join African American, women’s, and history of capitalism studies. As enterprising risk takers who tried to balance personal ambition and self-interest with communal empowerment and nation building, African-American women entrepreneurs challenged their position as objects of dependency and protection within the insurance and banking industries. She draws attention to their roles as agents of economic development, job creation, and financial security. Her forthcoming manuscript, Invincible Daughters of Commerce: Black Women in Finance, 1880s to 1950s, will explore how African-American women in insurance and banking “looked after” money. It highlights their lending and credit, saving, and investment activities from the end of Reconstruction to the eve of the modern Civil Rights Movement.
Her Case Postdoc project, “‘The Door of Hope, the Door of Opportunity’: Minnie Geddings Cox and the Mississippi Life Insurance Company, 1908-1923,” reconceptualizes the imbricated roles of gender, race, and business in the political economy of the New South through a focus on the enterprising life of Minnie Cox, co-founder of one of the three largest black-owned life insurance companies in the United States by the early 1920s. Cox expanded the boundaries of what African Americans in general and African-American women in particular “ought to be and do” during the early decades of the twentieth century—formative years in the concurrent transformations of the First New South, of Jim Crow, and of African Americans from a predominately Southern and rural people to an overwhelmingly Northern and urban one. Cox has no place in well-established histories of “Sable Victorians” shaping and mobilizing a politics of respectability through reform, education, and social service institutions. Nor does she fit easily into either the “accommodationist” praxis of self-interested entrepreneurs or the “protest”-inflected ideologies of selfless intellectuals and professional elites. Living in “the most southern place on earth,” Cox’s experiences reveal how African-American women operated creatively within and outside of normative expectations in a key U.S. industry, the insurance field, which had also become the largest business sector of the African-American separate economy. The article has been submitted for publication to a peer-reviewed journal.
Dr. Garrett-Scott recently published her article “To Do a Work That Would Be Very Far Reaching” in Enterprise & Society and will be spending the 2016-2017 academic year as a Davis Fellow at Princeton to finish the manuscript of her upcoming book.
“Without a doubt, the postdoc experience was invaluable in allowing me time and resources to complete works for publication and in positioning me for my future as an academic professional. Dr. Rhonda’s insightful feedback on my work pushed me in new and richer directions. Her living example as a scholar, activist, and sister-colleague have been a model to which I will spend a career aspiring to match.”
Publications Advanced while at CWRU
Accepted for Publication
“‘Feed[ing] the Lion of Prejudice’: Maggie Lena Walker and the Fight for Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Early 1900s,” in The True Worth of a Race: African American Women and the Struggle for Freedom, ed. Association of Black Women Historians (TBD, 2014)
“‘When Peace Come’: Teaching the Significance of Juneteenth,” Black History Bulletin, Special Issue: At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington 75, No. 2 (Summer/Fall 2013)
ldquo;Making Black Business Pay,” Review of Laura Warren Hill and Julia Rabig, The Business of Black Power: Community Development, Capitalism, and Corporate Responsibility in Postwar America (University of Rochester Press, 2012), H-Business, H-Net Reviews, March 2013, URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=38386
In Review for Publication
“‘Everything That Is Mean, Damnable, and Cursed’: Minnie Geddings Cox and the Indianola Affair, 1902-1904”
“‘The Door of Hope, the Door of Opportunity’: Minnie Geddings Cox and the Mississippi Life Insurance Company, 1908-1923”
“‘All the Other Devils This Side of Hades’: Jim Crow and State Regulation of Black Banks in Mississippi during the Progressive Era”
Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Laila Haidarali received her PhD in History at York University in Toronto, Canada in 2007; a year later, she won the distinct honour as Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow in African American Studies. In September 2009, Laila assumed the post of Lecturer in Modern U.S. History at the University of Essex. There, she finds particular fulfillment in teaching courses that make central the histories of those traditionally-marginalized from dominant narratives of U.S. History; she lectures on African American History, Women, Gender and Sexualities in U.S. History, and Immigration and Ethnicity in the Modern U.S. to receptive and enthusiastic students whose engagement these histories has resulted in a significant number of students electing topics in African American women’s history for their undergraduate dissertation projects; annually, the best of these works have been nominated for, and have won, first prizes for this independent research project. An African Americanist and feminist historian, Laila’s research and publications highlight an interdisciplinary approach to the study of African American Women’s History with focus on race and sexuality; visual and popular culture; consumer culture, and the gendered politics of style, fashion, and beauty.
Primary among Laila’s current research projects is completion of her book manuscript Beauty and the Brownskin: Sex, Colour, Beauty and African American Womanhood, 1920-1954. This work provides a socio-cultural history of the growing use of brown—as colour and complexion—in the literary, intellectual and cultural production of ideologies and images surrounding African American womanhood. Interdisciplinary in scope, and grounded historically in the decades leading up to the modern civil rights movement, Beauty and the Brownskin engages the images, texts, and ideas of diverse sets of middle-class African Americans as it explores the multiplicity of ways that brown seeped into popular parlance and visual culture, and in doing so, progressively encoded brown skin with classed and gendered ideas of “raced” womanhood. Partly based on her PhD. dissertation, Laila began revisions on this work during her Fellowship year in the Department of History where she found herself welcomed by a dynamic department that she only describe, en masse, as engaged, friendly, and forward-looking scholars. Formally and informally, the range of feedback and support received has been, and resonates still as invaluable; these assumed a range of activities that not only brought Laila to the wider attention of the university through her public lecture, but also brought her closer to communities of scholars interested in matters of race, gender, sexuality, representation, consumerism, and colour. Central to this support was the consistent expertise and guidance of Dr. Rhonda Y. Williams. Among Dr. Williams’ many offerings included feedback on an article-in-progress ‘A Superficial Equality: Re-Modelling African American Womanhood in Early Postwar America” that provided rich questions for further thought, and ones Laila happily took up in her final production of this essay published in Fashioning Models: Image, Text, Image and Industryeds. Joanne Entwistle and Elizabeth Wissinger (London: Berg Publishers, Autumn, 2012). Laila is most happy that this chapter is now also forthcoming in The True Worth of a Race: African American Women and the Struggle for Freedom (Autumn 2013). In addition, Laila was privileged to meet with and talk to Dr. Robin D.G. Kelley who not only offered to read her work, but also offered enriching and positive feedback. Laila was further supported with the visit and lecture by Dr. Martin Summers who also generously read and commented on a very preliminary version of “Browning The Dark Princess: Asian Indian Embodiment of African American Women” that now appears as the centrepiece essay in the Journal of American Ethnic History, Special Issue, “Race, History, and Literature”, Vol. 32, no.1 (Fall 2012). As well as drafting these two articles, revising her dissertation, conducting primary and secondary research using CWRU’s extensive library resources and services, Laila conducted research in Washington, D.C. where she spent two weeks in the archives National Archives for Black Women’s History at the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, in Washington, DC. There she examined the extensive records of National Association of Fashion and Accessory Designers Records (NAFAD); she will be presenting on these findings at “New Directions in US Studies: Re-imagining the 1950s and 1960s” at York University in Toronto (October 2013), at the “Gender and History in the Americas Seminar” at the Institute of Historical Research in London, England (February 2014), and at the Berkshire Conference on Women’s History in Toronto in May, 2014. Finally, in addition to support for her academic work, Laila saw first-hand the establishment of the Social Justice Institute, and was privileged to experience the search for Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equality Opportunity and the subsequent appointment of Dr. Marilyn Sanders Mobley. Yet, out of these many supports offered throughout her Postdoctoral Fellowship year, Laila cherishes most the commitment she more firmly holds in teaching the rich diversity of histories that constitute the African American experience. Through her research and writing, she is further committed to interrogating the nuanced meanings of colour as she seeks to dismantle historical understandings of race and colour as fixed, genderless and collapsible as she brings her first book to completion.