Kellen Heniford, 2021-2022 Postdoctoral Fellow
Kellen Heniford received her Ph.D. in US History from Columbia University, where she completed her dissertation entitled “Slavery is Slavery: Early American Mythmaking and the Invention of the Free State.” Her project looks at the concept of the “free state” as a political construct with a history of its own, arguing that policymakers along the borders of slavery and freedom helped create the category of the free state and then sought to claim it—despite the persistence of chattel slavery within their states—in a bid for the moral capital the concept offered them. During her time at the Richards Center, Kellen will work to prepare her dissertation for publication as a book manuscript. An article based on her research for the dissertation is forthcoming in the Journal of the Early Republic. She has published on history and politics in a number of other outlets, including Insurrect!: Radical Thinking in Early American Studies, where she also serves as a founding editor. At Columbia, she received the Richard Hofstadter Fellowship, the highest honor conferred upon an entering graduate student, and before beginning graduate school, she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University with a degree in History and African American Studies. Kellen’s research has been supported by the McNeil Center for Early American Studies as well as the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Heniford is currently a historian and consultant.
Maryam Aziz, 2020-2022 Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Maryam Aziz (they/them) received a Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 2020. Aziz also holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in African American Studies from Columbia University. Aziz’s first book asks how folks who practiced unarmed self-defense contributed to Black Power organizing and shifting ideas about liberation, abolition, and gender norms. It also traces how the learning of martial arts was facilitated by U.S. militarism during the Cold War. Aziz’s work was showcased in the 2017-2018 exhibit Black Power! at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, for which Aziz was a contributing writer and a curator for the sections on popular culture and blaxploitation film. Aziz currently serves as the current Assistant Coordinator for the American Studies Association’s Sports Studies Caucus as well as the Co-Director for the Schomburg Mellon Humanities Summer-Institute. As a scholar activist, Aziz regularly teaches radically inclusive self-defense classes in person and now virtually. They have written for the “Made by History” section at the Washington Post. Further insight into their work can be seen in publications such as Teen Vogue and Mic or heard in Podcasts such as Burn It All Down.
Dr. Aziz is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington, Department of American Ethinic Studies.
Jonathan Jones, 2020-2021 Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Jones received his Ph.D. at Binghamton University, where defended his dissertation, “Opium Slavery: Veterans and Addiction in the American Civil War Era,” in 2020. The manuscript investigates the phenomenon of opiate addiction among Civil War veterans, a harrowing medical consequence of the war that proved particularly traumatic for veterans and alarming for American doctors and the state. During his time at the Richards Center, Jones revised his manuscript for publication. He has published widely on the history of drug addiction and other Civil War-era topics in popular and scholarly outlets, with an article on the gendered experience and outcomes of addiction for Civil War veterans appearing in The Journal of the Civil War Era (June 2020). Jones’s research has been featured on public radio, television, and podcasts, and has been supported by The Huntington Library, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and Yale University’s medical library, among other institutions. Jones is a first-generation student from the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area, where he taught high school history before pursuing his doctorate. He obtained an M.A. in 2013 from Texas Christian University and an B.A. in 2011 from Dallas Baptist University.
Dr. Jones is currently an Assistant Professor at James Madison University.
Leigh Soares, 2019-2020 Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Soares received her Ph.D. in History from Northwestern University. Her research and teaching interests include African American history, the U.S. South, and 19th and 20th century U.S. history. Her dissertation, “Higher Ambitions for Freedom: The Politics of Public Black Colleges in the South, 1865-1915,” examined how black political and educational leaders mobilized throughout the region to establish and maintain state-supported black colleges. Support for the project came from the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation and Northwestern University. Dr. Soares is currently developing a book manuscript that builds on her dissertation research. Prior to attending Northwestern, she received a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master’s degree from the College of William & Mary, both in History.
Dr. Soares is currently an Assistant Professor at Mississippi State University.
Dara Walker, 2018-2019 Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Walker is currently writing her book manuscript which examines the role of the high school organizing tradition in the development of black radical politics of the Black Power era. Her research has been funded by the Ford Foundation’s Dissertation Fellowship, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Walter P. Reuther Library’s Albert Shanker Fellowship for Research in Education, and the Oral History Association.
Dr. Walker is Assistant Professor of African American Studies, History, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Pennsylvania State University
Alaina E. Roberts, 2017-2018 Postdoctoral Fellow
Alaina E. Roberts writes, teaches, and presents public talks about Black and Native history in the West, family history, slavery in the Five Tribes (the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole Nations), Native American enrollment politics, and Indigeneity in North America and across the globe.
Her first book, I’ve Been Here All the While: Black Freedom on Native Land, ties African American and Native American history tightly together, revealing a western theatre of Civil War and Reconstruction in which Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole Indians, their Black slaves, and African Americans and whites from the eastern United States fought military and rhetorical battles to lay claim to land in Indian Territory (modern-day Oklahoma) that had been taken from others.
In addition to I’ve Been Here All the While and multiple academic articles, her writing has appeared in outlets like the Washington Post and TIME magazine and her work has been profiled by the likes of CNN and the Boston Globe.
Dr. Roberts is currently an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Pittsburgh
Amira Rose Davis, 2016-2017 Postdoctoral Fellow
Amira Rose Davis received her doctorate in History from Johns Hopkins University in 2016. Her research interests include African-American gender history, sports, politics, and the history of black institutions. Her dissertation, “Watch What We Do: The Politics and Possibilities of Black Women’s Athletics, 1910-1970” examines the intellectual and institutional development of recreational, competitive and professional sporting opportunities for black women in the United States. In tracing the long history of black women’s athletic participation, this research explores the ways in which gendered power dynamics, particularly intra-racial ones, mediated black Americans’ engagement with athletics and physical culture. The study draws on a wide array of sources including black newspapers, black college and university records, and oral histories. Her article “No League of their Own: Baseball, Black Women, and the Politics of Representation,” was published in the May 2016 issue of Radical History Review. She spent her fellowship year completing oral history interviews, working on an article on black college protests in the 1920s, and revising her dissertation for publication.
Dr. Davis is currently an Assistant Professor and Harrington Faculty Fellow in African and African Diaspora Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
Nicole Myers Turner, 2015-2016 Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Turner obtained her Ph.D. in History with certificates in Africana Studies and College Level Teaching from the University of Pennsylvania in 2013. Longstanding interests in religion and power focus her research on the dynamic intersection between religion and politics in Virginia’s black communities during the post-emancipation period. Her dissertation, “Faith and Freedom: The Politics of Black Religious Institutions in Post-Emancipation Virginia” explores how Virginia’s free and freedpeople used their churches, conventions, and religious educational institutions to define political strategies, gender roles, and community membership. The study delves deeply into the limited but extant records of black religious institutions and incorporates GIS mapping techniques to visualize the church and political networks that supported black participation in electoral politics. Through this local study, she offers a social and political history of late-nineteenth century black religion. She spent her fellowship year revising her manuscript for publication and writing two articles—one on religious education of black church leaders and the other on enslaved women and religion—in addition to expanding her digital mapping project. She published Soul Liberty: The Evolution of Black Religious Politics in Postemancipation Virginia in 2020 with the University of North Carolina Press.
Dr. Turner is currently an Assistant Professor of Religion at Princeton University.
Cynthia Greenlee, 2014-2015 Postdoctoral Fellow
Cynthia specializes in the legal history of African-American girls and women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She received her Ph.D. from Duke University in July 2014. Her dissertation, “Black Girls and Childhood on Trial in South Carolina, 1885-1920,” explores how emergent segregation law, the punitive turn in criminal justice, progressive reform ideas about childhood, and early social science affected black girls in the legal system. Greenlee spent her year revising her dissertation into a manuscript for publication. She is the recipient of many awards, including the 2012 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship, the Ida B. Wells award from the Coordinating Council for Women in History, a Littleton-Griswold research grant from the American Historical Association, and a Cromwell fellowship from the American Society for Legal History. Greenlee did her undergraduate work in history and international studies at the University of North Carolina, where she later pursued a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication. A former journalist, she continues to write for online publications and strives to use history to illuminate the present. She is a member of the Echoing Ida collective of black women writers and is active in community organizations that advocate for the reproductive health of women, men and families. Follow her on Twitter @CynthiaGreenlee.
Dr. Greenlee is the deputy editor at the Southern Foodways Alliance and was the senior editor with Rewire.News, the leading online publication about reproductive health, rights, and justice.
Sasha Turner, 2013-2014 Postdoctoral Fellow
Sasha Turner joined the Richards Center in July 2013 as its second postdoctoral fellow in African American History. She completed her undergraduate degree in history at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica, before earning her Ph.D. from Cambridge University. Turner subsequently completed fellowships at Rutgers University and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. She took a leave from her position as assistant professor of History at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut, to become a Richards Center fellow.
Sasha’s research explores the dynamics of race, reproduction, and the status of freedom in defining women’s lives in Caribbean slave systems, highlighting power struggles between slaves and planters. The book manuscript she worked on during her fellowship details how enslaved women sometimes employed birthing and mothering practices to resist the total domination of masters. Turner singled out the university’s “wealth of resources” and the emphasis on professional mentoring as features that make the “Center stand out nationally and internationally as an institution that is serious about rigorous scholarship and devoted to enhancing the work and professional development of junior scholars.” During her fellowship, she worked on a book project that was published in 2017 by the University of Pennsylvania Press as Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing, and Slavery in Jamaica. In 2018, the book won the prestigious Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize. The prize is given annually for the best first book on the history of women, gender, and/or sexuality.
Dr. Turner is currently as Associate Professor at John Hopkins University.
Jessica Johnson, Inaugural Postdoctoral Fellow, 2012-2013
Jessica Marie Johnson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the Johns Hopkins University and a Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She is also the Director of LifexCode: Digital Humanities Against Enclosure. She is a historian of Atlantic slavery and the Atlantic African diaspora. Johnson is the author of Wicked Flesh: Black Women, Intimacy, and Freedom in the Atlantic World (University of Pennsylvania Press, August 2020).
Johnson joined the Center in August 2012 as its inaugural postdoctoral fellow in African American History. She earned her PhD at the University of Maryland under the direction of the noted scholar of slavery, Ira Berlin. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellowship at Bowdoin College, a Woodrow Wilson Mellon-Mays Dissertation Grant, and a Gilder Lehrman Institute Research Fellowship.
Dr. Johnson is currently an Associate Professor at the John Hopkins University