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.