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AWARD HIGHLIGHT: Africana Studies and the Humanities: Transnational Explorations in Social Justice
The Mellon Foundation awarded Skidmore College a $1.185 million grant to support Skidmore’s Black Studies Program and Racial Justice Teaching Challenge, advancing Africana studies and social justice at the College through innovative course creation and teaching, undergraduate research, and interdisciplinary collaboration. The three-year grant comes as part of the Foundation’s Humanities for All Times initiative, which supports curricular projects in the liberal arts that help students to see and experience the applicability of humanities in their real-world social justice objectives.
Funding for Skidmore’s project, Africana Studies and the Humanities: Transnational Explorations in Social Justice, will support the development of new courses for the College’s Black Studies Program through the launch of “learning communities” that will help faculty to refine their own understanding of new teaching methods, schools of thought, and areas of study that will diversify curriculum and illuminate social justice issues within and across disciplines.
This effort will directly reinforce the College’s Racial Justice Teaching Challenge (RJTC), launched in spring 2021 to increase Skidmore’s curricular focus on racial justice. Coordinated by the American Studies Department and Black Studies Program and supported by the Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, the RJTC encouraged faculty to develop content on racial justice and/or Black studies for their spring 2021 and fall 2021 courses, in consultation with Associate Professor of American Studies Beck Krefting and Professor and Director of the Black Studies Program Winston Grady-Willis, co-principal investigators of the Mellon grant.
The learning communities, three of which were launched last January, are a combined effort of the project team and other Skidmore faculty and staff across a variety of disciplines. Also taking part are the Tang Teaching Museum, Scribner Library, and The Center, a 5,000-square-foot facility that promotes principles of equity, inclusion, and justice in multidisciplinary programming for students, staff, and faculty. All of these resources and spaces will support research, discussion, and creation of new course content.
In addition to supporting course development, the grant will seed undergraduate research that centers on racial justice and engages with colonization/decolonization and power systems and structures. It will also fund the creation of two two-year postdoctoral positions in Black Studies with explicit grounding in the humanities. The program launched a national search for those positions in mid-January.
SPONSOR HIGHLIGHT: the mellon foundation
The Mellon Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and we believe that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom to be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Mellon makes grants in four core program areas: Arts and Culture; Higher Learning; Humanities in Place; and Public Knowledge.
PROJECT Personnel Profile: winston grady-willis
Winston Grady-Willis is Professor of Black Studies and Director of the Black Studies Program. An historian of twentieth-century global African experiences, he teaches intersectional courses that are a gateway to Africana Studies, illuminate Black radical social movements, and foreground Black feminist traditions. His first book, Challenging U.S. Apartheid: Atlanta and Black Struggles for Human Rights, 1960-1977, focuses on the transition from nonviolent direct action to Black Power in ways that center the voices of the Black working poor. He is also lead author of The Struggle Continues: Historical and Contemporary Issues in Africana Studies, an electronic textbook for introductory courses in Black Studies
American Society for Theatre Research: Publication & Presentation Prizes
National Endowment for the Humanities: Research Fellowships
Whiting Foundation: Creative Nonfiction Grant
Russell Sage Foundation: Research Grants
Spencer Foundation: Research Grants on Education: Large (Intent to Apply)
William T. Grant Foundation: Research Grants on Reducing Inequality and Research Grants on Improving the Use of Research Evidence
National Endowment for the Humanities: Humanities Initiatives
PROJECT Personnel Profile: beck krefting
Beck Krefting is Associate Professor in the American Studies Department and affiliate faculty for Gender Studies, Black Studies, Intergroup Relations, and Media and Film Studies at Skidmore College. She is an interdisciplinary humor studies scholar who teaches courses on the history of stand-up comedy, critical whiteness, post-apocalyptic texts, research methodologies, and Black feminist thoughts. Her monograph, All Joking Aside: American Humor and Its Discontents (Johns Hopkins UP), charts the history and economy of “charged humor” or stand-up comedy aimed at social justice. She is a contributing author to edited collections some of which include: Hysterical!: Women in American Comedy (University of Texas Press, 2017), Transgressive Humor of American Women Writers (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), The Joke Is On Us:Political Comedy in (Late) Neoliberal Times (Lexington Books, 2019), Ethics in Comedy: Essays on Crossing the Line (McFarland, 2020), and Taking a Stand: American Stand-up Comedians as Public Intellectuals (University of Mississippi Press, 2021). You can read articles about Hannah Gadsby published in the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies and Studies in American Humor or an examination of comedy’s role in #MeToo and Black Lives Matter Movements in a special issue published in Contemporary Political Theory (June 2021). Beck has been invited to speak about her research at colleges and universities domestically and internationally, most recently at universities in Copenhagen, Hannover, Munich, Leipzig, and Dresden. Current research includes: histories/historiographies of stand-up comedy, feminist comedy studies, and prepper/survivalist subcultures. Her current book project is tentatively titled: The Economy of Stand-up Comedy: Tribalism, Identity Politics, and Emotional Capital. She is the current Vice-President (and President-elect, 2022-2024) of the American Humor Studies Association and serves on the editorial board for Studies in American Humor as well as being an advisory board member for Penn State University Press’s Humor in America series. Mostly, she likes laughing, swimming, and working toward social justice.