Sixth-year doctoral candidate Robert Billups, who is currently the 2023–2024 Ambrose Monell Foundation Funded National Fellow in Technology and Democracy for the Jefferson Scholars Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia, recently authored a reflection about his research on the global dimensions of anti-semitism for Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies (TIJS). Billups recounts how a story heard in his childhood home of Meridian, Mississippi, about the attempted bombing of a local temple led him to research in Emory’s archives and, ultimately, to discern links between anti-Black racial violence and anti-semitism among right-wing extremists. Billups realized those links had global dimensions, as well, and secured financial support from the TIJS to conduct research abroad. With the counsel and support of Dr. Jeffrey Lesser, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of History, Billups chose to pursue his inquiry in the British Foreign Office in London, which contained mid-20th century records from officials in British consulates and embassies around the world worried about the resurgence of fascism and antisemitism. Read Billups’ full reflection here: “Graduate Student Researches Antisemitism at the British Archives.”
Dr. Yami Rodriguez, Assistant Professor of History, recently delivered opening remarks at the newest exhibit at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, titled “You Belong Here: Place, People, and Purpose in Latinx Photography.” A historian of Latinx communities, particularly those in the U.S. South, Rodriguez provided illuminating context for the exhibit by offering a chronology of relationships between Latinx communities in Atlanta and Emory University. Senior History major and Carlos Museum intern Cassandra Olivio, who worked with Rodriguez to secure the internship, created an interactive activity to accompany the exhibit. Read an excerpt from Rodriguez’s opening remarks along with a brief Q&A with Olivio about her experience below.
Yami Rodriguez, Opening Remarks (excerpt)
“The effort to showcase a Latinx photography exhibit at Emory led me to consider change over time, and how this exhibit contributes to a long legacy of students, staff, and faculty that have worked to highlight and make space for Latinx experiences and voices at this institution. I therefore want to briefly highlight the collaborative work that has been and continues to be necessary in order to make a statement like ‘You Belong Here’ ring true.
“In 1989, for example, Mariali Fuster, Maritza Ortiz and Gerardo Tosca, along with other students, were ‘primarily responsible for raising interest in having Emory celebrate’ Hispanic Heritage Month. A list of events included Spanish club meetings, lectures on US and Latin American history, and community meals. Three years later in 1992 members of the Latin American Awareness Organization (or, LATINO) at Emory had the stated goal of ‘bring[ing] together the Latino students and to educate both the Emory community and the Atlanta community-at-large about Latinos and Latin America.’ And just three years later a staff member explained in scrap notes how she ‘received more than 50 calls regarding the services and resources’ provided by the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services because many Latinx parents whose children had been accepted to Emory could not afford tuition. As the population of Latinx students at Emory grew at the turn of the century, so did awareness of the populations’ needs and, at times, demands. A Latino Task Force made up of students, staff and faculty established in 2000, for example, advocated for increased Latino student enrollment and staff increases, along with a call for establishing ‘Latino Studies.’ The call for Latinx Studies would be renewed in 2018 with student-led advocacy. Over the decades, Latinx academic, social, political, and cultural presence has shaped our Emory communities and the possibilities for inclusion on and off campus…The Latinx community today at Emory, in Metro Atlanta, and the South more generally, is diverse, multilingual, and actively in search of spaces that can speak to some aspects of this complex, constructed category we know as Latinidad. I’m hopeful that the Carlos Museum is one of many spaces on campus that can commit to maintaining a sustainable, non-extractive, and mutually beneficial relationship with Latinx communities at Emory and across Georgia as we seek to make our institutions more inclusive and representative of the worlds we move through.”
*Remarks were informed by archival materials in the Rose and research conducted by undergraduate student Arturo Contreras for his work on the “Consciousness is Power: A Record of Emory Latinx History.” Efforts to digitize this Fall 2022 pop-up exhibit are currently underway in our history course, “The Migrant South.”
Q&A with Cassandra Olivo, History Major and Carlos Museum Intern
How did you become an intern at the Carlos Museum, and how has this experience shaped your time at Emory?
I was able to secure my internship at the Carlos Musuem through the help of Professor Rodriguez. She informed me that the museum was looking for two students to create an interactive component for the exhibition, and I applied because she informed me that the knowledge and skills that I had acquired from my history courses could be applicable in the creation of this component.
As a student who must also work to be able to study at this institution, I have found it hard to make time to visit the museum; thus, this experience provided me with the opportunity to explore and interact with a space that I would have not engaged with otherwise.
Have you seen intersections between your role at the Carlos and your history coursework? How so?
Yes, I have. I have taken a few classes where we have discussed the forms of resistance used by enslaved people, and a piece by artist Joiri Minaya not only allowed me to see how art could be crafted to represent this history, but added to my knowledge because I learned that enslaved women in the Barbados used the ayogwiri plant to induce abortions because they did not want their children to be thrusted into slavery. This piece does an excellent job at displaying how art can be utilized as a medium that both communicates and educates the public about historical events.
The exhibit you worked on highlights themes of identity, community, and belonging, with the interactive you co-created for the exhibit asking visitors to reflect on these themes. Can you share a bit about how your own identity, community, and/or sense of belonging informed your work at the Carlos and your time at Emory?
As the daughter of Mexican-immigrant parents who can barely read and write in English, I wanted to design the interactive in a way, which included translating the questions into Spanish, that would feel inviting to these kinds of individuals. The silence that Latinx populations face does not result from the community’s lack of expression on topics, but rather the linguistic barriers that limit their self-expression. Growing up, I always viewed my upbringing as a limitation, but this internship has made me realize that my experiences allow me to be an effective advocate for the needs of the community.
There have been instances where I was the only person of Latinx descent in my class, and it felt isolating at times. This feeling compelled me to create a space where individuals would not only be able to reflect on their own experiences, but also read the stories of others similar to them and see that they were not alone.
Professor of History Brian Vick edited the recently published revised version of the volume in the German History in Documents and Images website on the era from 1815 to 1866, covering the period from the Congress of Vienna to German unification. Vick added over fifty new texts, images, maps, and objects of material culture along with accompanying short introductions to each item, plus a revised overall introduction. Areas of emphasis for the new primary sources include gender, German Jewish life, the environment, material culture, and above all the activities of “Germans beyond Borders,” that is, people from the German lands engaging as transnational actors around the world.
The German History in Documents and Images website project is hosted by the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC and is co-sponsored by the German Research Foundation, the ZEIT Foundation of Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius, and the Max Kade Foundation. The sources, all available in both English and German on an enhanced digital platform, are meant to promote research and teaching and learning for a variety of academic audiences.
During the fall of 2022, Mariana P. Candido, Adriana Chira, and Mariana Armond Dias Paes of the Max Plank Institute for Legal History received a three-year grant from Emory’s Office of the Provost. Titled “Land Dispossession, Inequality, and the Legacies of Slavery in Africa and Latin America,” the project is one of five that will receive a part of $1.4 million in support. The three historians will use the resources to conduct research, develop a digital platform, and initiate several pedagogical innovations focusing on land politics and sustainability in post-emancipation societies in Africa and Latin America. They will be engaging with primary sources located in endangered archives, including Cuba, Cape Verde, and Angola, while also developing new ways of sharing some of this material through public-facing platforms and new courses at undergraduate and graduate level.
The three project leaders point out that their work emerges from a belief that the humanities, and historical approaches in particular, are fields that are uniquely positioned to offer new ways of thinking about land dispossession, rural inequalities, and environmental sustainability. According to Candido, Chira, and Dias Paes, such approaches allow scholars to examine dispossession in the long term, exploring how present-day expulsion from the land is rooted in socio-economic structures dating back to slavery and colonialism. A humanistic approach to land dispossession also sheds light on alternative modes of community-building and property ownership that emerged from below that more quantitative social scientific approaches have ignored. Dias Paes emphasizes that “much of the legal framework of today´s legal system in what concerns property was created in the nineteenth century. Thus, if we want to reform these legal systems in the sense of shifting the current model of exploitation, we must discuss their roots and de-naturalize legal ideas such as ‘absolute ownership right,’ ‘legal personality,’ and so on.”
At the core of the project is a fundamental commitment to collaboration as a tool for writing and practicing better history. Candido and Chira are extremely excited to develop their collaboration with Mariana Dias Paes (with whom Candido has been working for a few years now), an ambitious visionary thinker in the field of legal history. Dias Paes is a Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Legal History and Legal Theory (Frankfurt am Main) where she heads the project “Global Legal History on the Ground: Court Cases in African Archives.” In the framework of the project, she has been digitizing over 30,000 court cases stored at the Cape Verde National Archives. Since 2017, together with Mariana Candido and Juelma Ngãla (ISCED-Benguela, Angola), she organized the court cases collection of the Benguela District Court (Angola). Her research focuses on the social and legal history of the South Atlantic (Brazil, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau), between the 17th and the 20th centuries. She has published extensively on issues pertaining to judicial disputes over land and labor in English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Her publications include: Esclavos y tierras entre posesión y títulos: la construcción social del derecho de propiedad en Brasil, siglo XIX (2021) and Escravidão e direito: o estatuto jurídico dos escravos no Brasil oitocentista, 1860-1888 (2019). She has also published articles in flagship journals such as Law & History Review, Atlantic Studies, Administory-Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsgeschichte. Since 2020, she serves as book review editor of the Journal of Global Slavery. She has been affiliated with international projects funded by the European Commission, the Max Planck Society, and CNPq/Brazil.
Dias Paes began researching the relation between law and slavery while she was in Law School. “It was during my masters, on freedom suits filed by enslaved people in Brazil, that I came to realize that the legal categories structuring these court cases and the legal arguments within them were the same ones used in land disputes. I decided to study this entanglement deeper during my Ph.D., and it became evident that the legal connection between property ownership and land ownership was mutually constitutive with broader economic and social relations. This was such a fascinating topic, that connected historiographical fields that do not often engage with each other, that I decided to pursue this topic further in the following years. For me, it is now clear that the history of slavery and land dispossession in the Global South is the basis of the current climate crisis.”
Asked to explain more about the collaborations that will emerge through the framework of this grant, Dias Paes said the project “will be fundamental to put my own individual research in perspective and access my results in a more complex fashion. When one is doing research individually, time and resources end up restricting the geographical and time scope of our work. Working collaboratively allows us to compare different contexts and thus understand with more complexity local process. Collaboration is fundamental to global and transnational research while allowing us to also conduct meticulous empirical research. Moreover, our project puts together researchers with different backgrounds, historians, and lawyers. This interdisciplinary collaboration will also deepen our debates and analysis. But our collaboration is not restricted to the project. We will also strengthen our partnerships with archival institutions in the Global South. In the age of digital humanities, it is urgent that we put forward debates on digital infrastructure and data sovereignty in Africa and Latin America. Digital humanities projects can both deepen the asymmetries between the Global South and the Global North or it can be an emancipatory tool, that broadens the access of Global South scholars to research infrastructures. Thus, we want our partnerships to be a laboratory on how to do digital humanities in the least asymmetrical way possible. Serious dialogue with our partners will be the key to achieving this goal.”
Learn more about the work of the three project leaders of “Land Dispossession, Inequality, and the Legacies of Slavery in Africa and Latin America” on their faculty pages:
Dr. Joseph Crespino, Jimmy Carter Professor of History, was featured in an Emory News Center piece centered on the question “Who was Atticus Finch?” In 2018, coinciding with the publication of Crespino’s most recent book, Atticus Finch: A Biography (Basic Books), Emory University’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library acquired a collection of correspondence and memorabilia from author Harper Lee. The correspondence within that collection shed light on the perceived discrepancies between Atticus Finch as represented in Lee’s famous novel To Kill and Mockingbird and the more recently-published Go Set a Watchman. Learn more about how Crespino’s research contributes to our understanding of this seminal character in U.S. literary history through the Emory News Center article as well as the video below.
Congratulations to graduate student Robert Billups on receiving the Joseph and Eva R. Dave Fellowship from the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives (AJA). The fellowship will provide Billups with research access to the AJA’s renowned collections on the historic campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Since its inception in 1976, the fellowship program has has brought nearly 600 scholars from over 20 countries to conduct research in Cincinnati. Billups’s dissertation, “‘Reign of Terror’: Anti–Civil Rights Terrorism in the United States, 1955–1976,” examines violence against the U.S. civil rights movement in the middle of the twentieth century.
The U.S. senate has confirmed James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism Hank Klibanoff and Rose library instructional archivist Gabrielle M. Dudley to the federal Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board. Established in 2019 and convened in 2022, the panel has received authorization through 2027 to investigate unsolved cases from the Civil Rights era. Klibanoff is director of the Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project at Emory and host of the award-winning podcast Buried Truths. Read more about the federal cold cases panel and Atlantans’ significant roles within it: “Civil rights cold case board to have unique Atlanta flavor.”
Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies recently published a feature of the pandemic-era work of History doctoral candidate Anastasiia Strakhova, who was the Anne and Bill Newton Graduate Fellow at the Rose Library for 2020-21. After COVID-19 thoroughly derailed her original plans for the fellowship year, Strakhova responded by organizing two virtual workshops on grant writing and the process of conducting research during the pandemic, respectively. Strakhova won a highly competitive Summer Dissertation Writing Grant from the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES), which is currently supporting her work completing the dissertation, titled “Selective Emigration: Border Control and the Jewish Escape in Late Imperial Russia, 1881-1914.” Drs. Eric Goldstein and Ellie R. Schainker are advisors to Strakhova. Read the full article from the Tam Institute here: “Doctoral Candidate Creates Workshops Amidst Pandemic.”
The Emory News Center recently wrote a feature story about Dr. Maria R. Montalvo‘s spring 2021 course, “Slavery and the Archive.” The course involved undergraduates in conducting original archival research on the lives of enslaved people, including in Emory’s extensive collections in African American history in the Woodruff Library and Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library. Dr. Erica Bruchko, a 2016 graduate of the History doctoral program and African American Studies and U.S. History Librarian at the Woodruff library, supported the students’ research. Dr. Montalvo is an Assistant Professor and in her second year at Emory. Read a quote from the Emory News Center article below along with the full piece: “History course uncovers ‘archival silences’ of enslaved people.”
“My goal is not to have them all become historians,” Montalvo says. “My goal is to help them understand how to read, learn and question effectively enough to become the best of anything they want to be.”
Willie Lieberman, a third-year student in the History honors program specializing in European Studies, recently published a post on the blog of Emory’s Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library. Coinciding with Women’s History Month, the article surveys the Rose Library’s exciting Jane Austen collection. Read an excerpt from Lieberman’s piece below along with the full article here.
“March is Women’s History Month – a time to celebrate women’s accomplishments throughout history, address past and present injustices, and pave the path to a more liberated future for all women. The Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library is home to a wealth of collections by significant female authors like Sylvia Plath and Alice Walker. One of the Rose Library’s most exciting features is its Jane Austen collection. Jane Austen is one of the best-known and most successful female authors…The Rose Library’s Jane Austen holdings signify her commercial success and the value of her writing to society, while also pointing to inequities female authors faced in publishing.“