Lecturer in History & Literature
Describe your current research. What about it drew your interest?
My current project, Living in the Struggle: Black Power, Gay Liberation, and Women’s Liberation Movements in Atlanta, 1964-1996, explores how poor and working class residents of Atlanta came to identify mutual interests across traditional lines of difference like race, gender, and sexuality. The project began as a study of Southern African American women and the welfare rights movement they built in the 1950s and 1960s. As my research progressed, I saw how intertwined this activism was with other social movements and so expanded my study to explore the myriad ways African American women’s work shaped post-civil rights era social movements in the South.
One strand that connects all of my research is how everyday interactions fostered relationships which, over time, led to political strategies or alliances that helped poor people survive and build political power.
Describe what you are currently teaching. How does your teaching relate to your scholarship?
In the fall, I’m teaching a seminar called Queering the South. I did not start my dissertation with a Southern Studies background so I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on what I’ve learned and how the field has recently changed. Together my students and I will examine the people and ideas that are often left out of, or marginal to, accounts of modern Southern history. Every week, we’ll read oral history interviews conducted by scholars like E. Patrick Johnson and John Howard. These will anchor the course in the experiences of ordinary people and help students bring questions to our readings of novels, songs, monographs, and articles. We will also conduct oral history interviews and write for non-academic audiences.
What recent or forthcoming publications are you excited about, either of your own or from other scholars?
I read, and excitedly re-read, Jennifer Nash’s Black Feminism Reimagined: After Intersectionality. My thinking and my writing isn’t always theoretically inclined. Nash’s book is the best type of theoretical analysis, offering a history of black feminist theory, a critique of some of the ways intersectionality is used today, and a compelling vision for a future of black feminism that has tangible benefits for people’s lives. I make a point to read everything Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor writes and so can’t wait for her upcoming book Race for Profit: Black Homeownership and the End of the Urban Crisis. I enjoyed Ansley Quiros’s recent article about Freaknik in Atlanta Studies and so eagerly read her book God With Us: Lived Theology and the Freedom Struggle in Americus, Georgia, 1942-1976. I especially loved her chapter on the Cotton Patch Gospel and utopian community organizing in Americus, a small city in southwest Georgia. I’ve also dug into the recent special issue of the Journal of African American History edited by Kevin Mumford on black gay history too. So much brilliance in the issue.
My go-to summer reading always includes Samuel Delany’s novels, short stories, and non-fiction. He’s an urbanist working in, and creating, so many different configurations of people and practices and places. He is a joy to read and sparks my imagination about the types of questions urban historians should be asking. And I can never get enough of Joe Sheehan’s writing. He writes a baseball newsletter that is the single thing I’ve read the most over for the last decade. His work relishes in analytical rigor, argument, and narrative in ways that I am always trying to replicate in my own writing.
What advice do you have for young scholars preparing themselves for a career related to urban history or urban studies?
Reach out to graduate students at universities in the city you are studying, even if they’re not working on similar projects. Traveling for research can be lonely, especially as graduate school progresses and the dissertation becomes harder to finish against the backdrop of ever-dwindling job opportunities. Having friends in the city makes research trips so much more pleasant and connects you to parts of a city you may not otherwise engage, including current organizers and activists or neighborhoods beyond where archives are located.
Most recently, you held the postdoc at Carnegie Mellon’s Center for African American Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE). What were the highlights of that experience? Would you recommend the postdoc to other scholars?
If you have the chance, leap at the opportunity to be involved with CAUSE! Dr. Joe Trotter and Hikari Aday have built a program that cultivates and celebrates African American history. Each month, the speaker series brings scholars of African American history to campus to speak with Carnegie Mellon community members and Pittsburgh residents. All of their initiatives bring together scholars of African American history and the general public. Dr. Trotter is the next president of the Urban History Association and I hope the annual conference comes to Pittsburgh so that everyone can experience firsthand the great work CAUSE is doing.
The highlight of the past year was Dr. Trotter’s mentorship. He helped me see my project in a new way, worked with me to craft a strategy for revising my dissertation into a book manuscript, discussed new article ideas with me and read drafts, and introduced me to scholars working on similar topics. He did it all with such kindness and good cheer. It was wonderful to have a postdoc year devoted just to research and writing at CAUSE.