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George and Ann RichardsCivil War Era Center

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News & Events

Dr. Rachel Shelden, Richards Center director and associate professor of history, and Dr. AnneMarie Mingo, assistant professor of African American studies and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, recently spoke with Penn State News about the history and meaning of Juneteenth. Juneteenth commemorates emancipation during the Civil War and specifically recognizes June 19, 1865 when Union forces under General Gordon Granger arrived in Texas and confirmed that the Emancipation Proclamation had ended slavery there and throughout the former Confederacy. Click this link to read the article on the Penn State News site.

Penn State Scholars Mark Juneteenth

Three Richards Center affiliated graduate students successfully defended their dissertations earlier this month and earned their Ph.D. degrees. Cecily Zander earned he doctorate under the guidance of William Blair, Walter L. and Helen P. Ferree Professor Emeritus of Middle American History and Director Emeritus of the Richards Civil War Era Center. Her dissertation is titled, “Agents of Empire: The U.S. Army, The Civil War, and the Making of the American West, 1848-1872.” Emily Seitz earned her doctorate under the direction of Lori Ginzberg, professor of history and women’s studies. Her dissertation is titled, “Prescribing Pregnancy Loss: Women Physicians and the Changing Boundaries of Fetal Life in Nineteenth-Century America.” Mallory Huard also earned her doctorate under the direction of Dr. Ginzberg. Her dissertation is titled, “America’s Private Empire: Family and Commercial Imperialism in Nineteenth Century Hawai’i.”

Graduate Students Earn Doctoral Degrees

Amy Greenberg, George Winfree Professor of American History, reviewed Michael Burlingame’s An American Marriage: The Untold Story Story of Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd, for The New York Times. Her review appeared in the June 3 edition of the TimesAn American Marriage was published this year by Simon and Schuster. In the book, Burlingame provocatively argues that Mary Todd was physically abusive toward Lincoln and was a corrupt First Lady, causing Lincoln to regret his marriage to her.

Greenberg Publishes Review in New York Times

Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies, recently spoke with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Melissa Harris-Perry of WNYC’s The Takeaway about Naomi Osaka’s decision to withdraw from this month’s French Open tennis tournament. Osaka had been threatened with escalating fines and possible disqualification from the tournament for declining media appearances for mental health reasons. Dr. Davis also appeared on WNYC’s Morning Edition to discuss the racial dynamics behind highly publicized examples of fans behaving badly and violently toward players in the NBA playoffs. In May, she wrote about a new generation of Black women athletic directors at major universities for Global Sport Matters.

Davis Makes National Media Appearances

Amira Rose Davis and Maryam Aziz contributed articles to the spring 2021 special issue of The Journal of African American History, titled “New Directions in African American History.” Dr. Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies, authored the article, “New Directions in African American Sports History: A Field of One’s Own” for the issue. Dr. Aziz, Richards Center and Africana Research Center postdoctoral Fellow in history, contributed the article, “They Punched Black: Martial Arts, Black Arts, and Sports in the Urban North and West, 1968–1979.” The JAAH is the leading scholarly publication in the field of African American history and is the official journal of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. Renowned historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the JAAH in 1916 as The Journal of Negro History.

Davis and Aziz Publish in Journal of African American History

Crystal Sanders, associate professor of history, will receive the 2021 Dr. James Robinson Equal Opportunity Award from Penn State. The award recognizes her many efforts to promote equal opportunity and promote cross-cultural understanding at the university. In announcing the award, the university noted that her nominators “called Sanders a fierce proponent of the history of black education and also an advocate for expanding opportunities for minorities in the field.” Dr. Sanders has initiated many programs, symposia, and other events to promote inclusion and collaboration among faculty and students, including the Richards Center’s undergraduate Catto-LeCount Fellows Program for Equity and Inclusion.

Dr. Crystal Sanders

Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies, has been named a  2021 Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s Institute for Citizens and Scholars. The Mellon awards “support junior faculty whose research focuses on contemporary American history, politics, culture, and society, and who are committed to the creation of an inclusive campus community for underrepresented students and scholars.” Dr. Davis also was named a 2021–2022 Harrington Faculty Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. The residential fellowship will allow her to focus on research and collaborations with colleagues in Texas’s Department of African and African Diaspora Studies and across the university.

Davis Named Mellon Faculty Leader

We are pleased to announce that Emma Teitelman will join the department of history and the Richards Center in July as the center’s first associate director. As associate director, she will work closely with center director Rachel Shelden in shaping and executing the center’s strategic plan for the future. Emma’s research interests include the Civil War and Reconstruction, as well as the history of labor, inequality, and capitalism. Her current book project explores transformations in capitalism and the state after the Civil War, focusing especially on the histories of the South and the West. It argues that the fall of southern slavery brought profound change not only to the lives of enslaved people but also to national patterns of economic development, government activities, and colonial practices. These structural shifts were rooted in the federal government’s changing relationships to cohorts of northeastern businessmen and philanthropists. Faced with enormous political challenges in the wake of the war, federal authorities searched for allies, ultimately forging dynamic relationships to members of an increasingly politicized capitalist class. Joining together around the politics of emancipation, colonialism, and industrial capitalism, these postbellum forces steered the economic integration of the United States at a moment of dramatic uncertainty. In the process, northeastern capitalists and U.S. authorities foreclosed possibilities for alternative forms of life, incorporating Native peoples, the formerly enslaved, smallholding farmers, and landless workers into an increasingly coherent capitalist society. Emma’s writing has appeared in the Journal of American History and New Labor Forum, among others, and her work has been supported by the Huntington Library and the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy. Prior to joining Penn State and the Richards Center, she was the Mellon Research Fellow in American History at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. 

Center Welcomes New Associate Director

The Richards Center hosted its annual Catto-LeCount Fellows Program for Equity and Inclusion March 25-27 over Zoom. Formerly known as the Emerging Scholars Undergraduate Mentoring Program, this initiative introduces talented undergraduate students from under-represented backgrounds to graduate education in history. Fourteen Fellows participated in this year’s virtual program. The Fellows represented a variety of institutions, from large universities Texas State and USC to Ivy League institutions Brown, Dartmouth, and Harvard. Fellows learned about the graduate application process, graduate student life, and the history profession. Fellows also learned about Penn State’s innovative dual-title degree programs in history and African American studies and history and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, the Latina/o Studies program, and the professional development opportunities offered by sister centers, like the Africana Research Center, the Center for Black Digital Research, and the Humanities Institute.   Three alumni of the Catto-LeCount Fellows Program, Richard Daily, Alexandria Herrera, and, most recently, Keon Burns, have been admitted to graduate study in history at Penn State, since the program’s inception. Daily is a doctoral candidate in history and African American studies, and Herrera is a doctoral candidate in history and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies. Burns will begin his graduate study in August 2021. The Fellows program is named in honor of Octavius V. Catto (1839-1871) and Caroline LeCount (1846-1923), who were scholars, educators, and civil rights leaders in Civil War era Philadelphia.

2021 Catto-LeCount Fellows Program for Equity and Inclusion

We are pleased to announce that Mycah Conner and Kellen Heniford will join the Richards Center in August 2021 as postdoctoral Fellows in the Civil War Era. The expansion of the fellowship program to support two fellows enables the Richards Center to promote a broad range of innovative new scholarship that will shape future study of the Civil War era. We are excited to welcome Mycah and Kellen to Penn State and the Richards Center, and we look forward to helping them further their outstanding scholarship.

Mycah will receive her PhD in History from Harvard in May 2021. She specializes in the history of slavery, emancipation, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Her dissertation, “‘On this Bare Ground’: The Ordeal of Freedpeople’s Camps and the Making of Emancipation in the Civil War West,” is a history of the battles for freedom and self-determination in the Western and upper Trans-Mississippi Theaters of the war. It situates the West as emancipation’s starting point and examines sites of existential struggle, betrayal, death-dealing, confiscation, and dispossession. But centrally, it is a study of the freedpeople’s defenses of their futures, their children, and other kin—in the face of cupidity, indifference, and bold and innovative cruelty. Mycah holds broader interests in social histories of the South, the Midwest, and the ways in which a westward shift of focus can change our understanding of emancipation and subsequent freedom struggles. As a Richards Center fellow, she will begin to turn her dissertation into a book manuscript and will start a second project on the lives of ageing or elderly freedpeople in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her work has been supported by the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History and the Mellon-Sawyer Seminar on the Politics of Kinship at Tufts University. In 2011, Mycah graduated from Columbia University in the City of New York with an A.B. in History. She earned her A.M. in History at Harvard in 2014.

Kellen will receive her PhD in US History from Columbia University in June 2021. Her dissertation is entitled “Slavery is Slavery: Early American Mythmaking and the Invention of the Free State.” It examines 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 dissertation research 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. Before Columbia 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.

Richards Center Welcomes Postdoctoral Fellows Mycah Conner and Kellen Heniford