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George and Ann RichardsCivil War Era Center

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Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

Postdoctoral Fellowship Program

In partnership with Penn State’s Africana Research Center, the Richards Center established a competitive, one-year postdoctoral fellowship in 2012. The fellowship rewards recently graduated Ph.D.s studying aspects of the African American experience from slavery to Civil Rights.

Beginning in 2020, Penn State’s College of the Liberal ArtsDepartment of History, and the Richards Center will host a second Center-sponsored postdoctoral fellowship (in addition to our joint RCWEC/ARC fellowship). The fellowship rewards recently graduated Ph.D.s studying aspects of the Civil War Era, particularly focusing on slavery and emancipation.

Both fellowships are one year with the possibility of renewal for a second year. While in residence, the fellows have access to the Center’s professional resources, receive guidance from a mentor, and participate in a series of professional development workshops. The fellows will present their research to the graduate community and will invite senior scholars in their field to the university to review and comment on their work.


Application and Submission Process

Successful applicants must have completed all requirements for the Ph.D. within the previous four academic years. Salary/benefit package is competitive.

To be considered for this position, submit a complete application packet including a cover letter describing your research and goals for the scholarship year, a curriculum vita, and a list of three references. We will request writing samples and letters of recommendation from candidates who advance in the search process. Successful candidates must either have demonstrated a commitment to building an inclusive, equitable, and diverse campus community, or describe one or more ways they would envision doing so, given the opportunity.

Review of materials will begin November 1, 2022, and continue until the position has been filled. Please direct questions about the process via e-mail to richardscenter@psu.edu.

Postdoctoral Scholar, African American History

To apply, click here

The Richards Center and the Africana Research Center invite applications for a postdoctoral scholar in African American history, beginning July 1, 2023. This is a one-year position, with the possibility of renewal. All research interests spanning the origins of slavery through the civil rights movement will receive favorable consideration. Proposals that align with the Richards Center’s interests in slavery, abolition, and emancipation, as well as comparative or Atlantic history, are especially welcome. During their residency, the scholar will have no teaching or administrative responsibilities. They will be matched with a mentor, attend professional development sessions and other relevant events, and will be expected to take an active part in Penn State’s community of researchers. The fellow also will invite two senior scholars to campus to read and comment on their project. 

Postdoctoral Scholar, Civil War Era

To apply, click here

The Richards Civil War Era Center, in conjunction with the Department of History and the College of Liberal Arts, invites applications for a postdoctoral scholar in the history of the Civil War Era, beginning July 1, 2023. This is a one-year position, with the possibility of renewal. All research interests spanning the pre-war period through Reconstruction will receive favorable consideration. Proposals that align with the Richards Center’s interests in slavery, abolition, and emancipation are especially welcome. During their residency, the scholar will have no teaching or administrative responsibilities. They will be matched with a mentor, attend professional development sessions and other relevant events, and will be expected to take an active part in Penn State’s community of researchers. The fellow also will invite two senior scholars to campus to read and comment on their project. 


2022-23 Postdoctoral Scholars

Mycah ConnerMycah Conner received her PhD in History from Harvard. 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, which interprets emancipation with the West as its starting point. It 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 generalities and conventional metaphors in histories of emancipation and subsequent freedom struggles. As a Richards Center fellow, Mycah will be turning her dissertation into a book manuscript and beginning 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. She’s originally from mid-Michigan.

Kellen HenifordKellen Heniford received her PhD 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.

Jessica Wicks-Allen received her PhD in history from the University of Maryland and is a specialist in nineteenth-century African American history with particular interest in Black women, slavery, emancipation, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Her dissertation titled “‘If I Am Free My Child Belongs to Me’: Black Motherhood and Mothering in the Era of Emancipation,” investigates how mothering, motherhood, and the ability to bear children shaped Black women’s transition from slavery to freedom in the U.S. South. The project traces how pregnant women and women with children fit into the new free-labor system, navigated involuntary child apprenticeship, negotiated custody and childrearing responsibilities with the fathers of their children, and established broader systems of support. It also seeks to unearth freedpeople’s own constructions of motherhood by examining their attitudes toward childbirth and motherhood, Black communities’ notions of proper mothering, and the roles of mothers and their children at various stages in their life cycles. In her scholarship, Jessica not only strives to bring Black mothers from the margins to the center of the historical narrative but to narrate the history of emancipation from their vantage and to reconstruct the gendered world in which they lived and labored. Her work has been supported by the American Philosophical Society and the Society of Civil War Historians.

Joseph Williams received his PhD from Rutgers University and is an historian of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with research interests in Black intellectual history, Black women’s history, and the history of American religious reform. His dissertation, “Black Club Women, the Production of Religious Thought, and the Making of an Intellectual Movement, 1854-1933,” examines Black women’s conceptualization of the immaterial as well as the pluralistic approach they employed to launch an intellectual movement in the Black community. His work has been recognized by several institutions, including the American Council of Learned Societies, the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, the Louisville Institute, and the Ford Foundation. Joseph also runs The Eulogy Project, a digital humanities initiative dedicated to the preservation of eulogies and other forms of tributes produced in honor of African Americans.


Postdoctoral Fellowship Funding

These postdoctoral fellowships are made possible by the generous support of Steven and Janice Brose, Robert and Bonnie Hammel, Lewis and Karen Gold, Ted and Tracy Winfree McCourtney, Mark and Ann Persun, Howell and Sandy Rosenberg, and Alice Schmidt. The fellowships significantly enhance the Center’s position as a national leader in advancing innovative scholarship in the Civil War era. Focused on African American history, these fellowships promote research in a traditionally under-studied aspect of the history of this period.