NEH 2014 Summer Institute Participant Biographies

Colleen BellAfter teaching young children in preschools and at Johns Hopkins Hospital Children’s Center, Colleen Bell completed her graduate work at the Universities of Wisconsin (MS, Child & Family Studies) and Illinois (PhD, Educational Policy Studies) and earned a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution (HU School of Law). She has been teaching graduate and undergraduate students since 1986, at Hamline since 1990. Colleen has also taught at the University of Illinois, the College of St. Scholastica, the University of Tulsa, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs.

Colleen has contributed to two recent conference papers—both of which were developed collaboratively with students—one of which has addressed ‘blackface’ incidents on college campuses and the other of which presents a model for experiential learning and authentic assessment in theory courses. She is also in the process of documenting what social justice teaching and learning look like at one K-8 school in Minneapolis—Southside Family School—where teachers have been developing child-centered social justice curriculum for the last forty years.

On campus, Colleen has participated in racial justice programs such as Hamline University’s Conference on Race and Ethnicity and the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity and other social justice efforts such as the Queer to Peer (Q2P) mentoring program. In the Twin Cities community, Professor Bell facilitates racial dialogues for the Minneapolis YWCA’s racial justice program and co-facilitates weekend discussion circles in the Hennepin County women’s workhouse.


Derrick BroomsDerrick Brooms is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Louisville where he is also a Task Force Member for the African American Male Initiative. His research explores representations of African American identity and culture within the media—primarily focusing on visual culture and museums. Two of his recent publications include examining how slavery is represented in African American museums and how black-centered museums use Africa to legitimate African American identity. He is currently working on a study that focuses on how the Black Freedom Movement is remembered within the cultural landscape. Additionally, he also investigates the lived experiences of African American males, specifically examining their educational experiences and identity development. Prior to Louisville, he served as an Assistant Professor of Sociology and African American History at Prairie State College and was an affiliate faculty member for the African American Male Initiative Program. Before joining the Prairie State faculty, Derrick served on the design team and worked as an administrator, coach and teacher at Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men—an all-boys charter school located in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. He holds a bachelor's degree in African and African American Studies from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in sociology from Loyola University Chicago.

Rebekah Buchanan’s research examines the narrative writing lives of zinesters. She explores zines as a life-long literacy practice that creates permanent writing lives and communities. She is interested in how personal narratives published in alternative spaces create sites where participants challenge traditionally accepted public narratives.

She has published articles on popular culture in the classroom, youth’s out of school literacy practices, and creating writing programs for dissertators. Her recent work includes Riot Grrrl rhetoric in zines and discussion of narrative inquiry as a research practice.

She is an Assistant Professor of English and Journalism at Western Illinois University. Before coming to Western, Buchanan spent a number of years teaching high school English and history, creating an alternative high school in a CBO, designing summer writing programs for middle and high school youth, and doing writing center administrative work. At Western she primarily teaches English Education methods courses and writing courses.

Recently, Buchanan has been working with a political science professor to create a paired course that covers American government and politics and first year composition. The course focuses on citizenship, activism, and American political culture.

When she’s not teaching you can find her training for triathlons, blogging about running, taking pictures of train tracks, listening to 80s punk and Brit pop (especially The Smiths), watching Dr. Who and playing games with her kids, finding anything she can that has to do with zombies, reading, watching British murder mysteries or rewatching The Wire, and dreaming of a World Series at Wrigley Field.

Professional Website:

Michele Grigsby Coffey is currently serving at the University of Memphis as an Instructor.  She earned a PhD from the University of South Carolina in History (2010) with specializations in African American history and women’s and gender history.  Coffey received her MA from Baylor University (2002) and BA from there as well (2000).  In between her MA and PhD programs, Coffey was very fortunate to work at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin in the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute as well as teaching history courses.

Michele Coffey is fascinated by politics, broadly defined, and the intersections between cultural and political history.  She is primarily interested in rhetorical constructions of gender and race within the political and legal systems of the twentieth century south.  That interest has led me to intriguing projects examining child custody and maternal rights in the early 20th century, African American activism in the Depression era, conservative response against the Equal Rights Amendment and community mobilization during Freedom Summer.

Michele is very engaged in other interdisciplinary work and is currently collaborating with Jodi Skipper (Anthropology and Southern Studies) at the University of Mississippi as the co-organizer of what will be a path-breaking Southern Studies project.  The Transforming New South Identities symposium in February brought together scholars from a wide range of disciplines who are pushing the boundaries of the field in various ways.  Coffey and Dr. Skipper are in the process of editing a collection of revised pieces from our workshop for publication.  Coffey’s piece for the symposium and collection argues a connection between Southern Studies pedagogy and psychological findings regarding individual resilience among those who have a broad understanding of their relationships to a complex and diverse historical narrative. 

Additionally, Michele Coffey has been fortunate to engage in the field of leadership education through her work in peer mentoring programs and curriculum development.  When she is doing historical research, Coffey examines how individuals in the past built community and empowered one another to action in diverse and varied settings.  When she is doing leadership work,  Coffey is focused on helping people in the present to develop the skills necessary to do the same on their own terms.  The privilege of seeing these processes from both perspectives strengthens her research in each field.  

Rondee GainesRondee Gaines is the 2013-14 Heanon-Wilkins Post-Doctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor at Miami Ohio University in the Department of Media, Journalism, and Film at Miami Ohio University. Dr. Gaines’s research, including mass mediated messages and rhetorical studies, critiques various aspects of the Black Power Movement, such as the political, cultural, religious, and economic influences, the Black Arts Movement, black cultural communication, institutional gendered racism, African-American rhetoric, womanism, feminism, black feminism, and the black women’s resistance tradition. She has presented papers at the National Communication Association, the National Council for Black Studies, the National Women’s Studies Association, and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.  Also, she created and participated in a workshop at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (2005), and the presentation detailed her student activism, which challenged the white hegemonic atmosphere at The University of Alabama. Rondee is a native of Flint, MI. She completed her master’s thesis, “Race, Power, and Representation: The Mainstream Broadcast News Portrayal of the Republic of New Africa,” at The University of Alabama, where she graduated with her Master’s in telecommunication and film December 2003. She recently graduated with her Ph.D. from Georgia State University in May 2013, and her dissertation was entitled “I am A Revolutionary Black Female Nationalist: A Womanist Analysis of Fulani Sunni Ali’ Role as a New African Citizen and Minister of Information in the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Africa,” which was directed by Dr. M. Lane Bruner.


Steve HaynesSteve Haynes is Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, where he has taught since 1989. At Rhodes he has developed and taught classes on the Holocaust, Religion and Racism, and Religion, Conflict and Reconciliation.

Haynes is the author or editor of eleven books, including Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (Oxford: 2002) and The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation (Oxford, 2012). He has also published on the life and thought of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Haynes’s current project, funded by the Louisville Institute for the Study of American Protestantism, is called “Models of Congregational Repentance: Truth-Telling along the Path to Reconciliation.” This is a program of “ecclesial repentance” that has convened a group of scholars and pastors to engage in organizing and reflecting upon events of reconciliation at churches that experienced civil rights-era trauma.

Haynes is in the beginning stages of planning a documentary film dealing with the phenomenon of church kneel-ins, that is, attempts to test the tolerance of white churches for integrated worship, which in cities like Memphis and Jackson, Mississippi led to extended protests.

Haynes is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and currently serves as Theologian-in-Residence at Idlewild Presbyterian Church.


Erin KempkerErin Kempker  is an assistant professor of history at Mississippi University for Women (MUW), located in Columbus, Mississippi.  Before coming to MUW, her experience was thoroughly Midwestern.  She was raised in rural, central Missouri and did all of her graduate work at Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana) in women’s history and 20th century U.S. history.  When she landed a tenure-track position at an historic women’s college in 2008 just before the bottom dropped out of the academic market, Kempker was amazed at the good fortune.  She still believes herself to be extremely lucky in the position at MUW, but in the last six years she has also become aware of a responsibility that she did not initially foresee in accepting the job.  In large part, she applied to “Finding Mississippi” to help her students, the university, and the community better understand and tell their story.

MUW was founded in 1884 as the “Mississippi Industrial Institute & College for the Education of White Girls in Arts and Sciences” and was the first publicly-funded college for women in the New South. The liberal arts and vocational template crafted by the college became a model for public women’s education that led states across the South to follow suit, including Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. The university integrated in 1966 and became coeducational in 1982 and today the roughly 2,500 students who attend MUW represent the diversity of our region, as they come overwhelmingly from north Mississippi and west Alabama. (We continue, however, to have significantly more female students than male.)  Since its founding as a college for white women, MUW has undergone many transformations—including two name changes—but the story of integration remains untold.  With the 50th anniversary coming up in 2016, part of my mission this summer is to better understand the civil rights movement in the state, so I can better understand the times and context for integration at MUW.  More than anything, I seek to bring the discussion we initiate this summer back to campus with me and share it with my students and peers.   I hope to build on what we do this summer by using the resources and knowledge gained to support undergraduate research projects, community presentations, and new scholarship.

Barry E. Lee has deep roots in Mississippi, born and raised in Indianola by Dan and Marie Lee, both now deceased, as the oldest brother of Gerald Kenneth and Sandra Denise. On both sides of his family, his grandparents spent their lives on Mississippi soil, from the sandy Gulf Coast town of Waveland to the hilly terrain of Vicksburg to the fertile plains of the Delta, erecting a model of racial pride and self-worth that still sustains the family. Raised in a land-owning farming family whose mother taught elementary, Barry learned early on the value of an education and the ethos of righting the racial wrongs. One of the most enduring childhood memories was a visit by Medgar Evers to the Lee home in the 1960s.
                After graduating from Gentry High School, Lee attended Morehouse College and majored in history. In 1990, he entered the masters program in American history at Georgia State University, focusing on the civil and human rights movement. Lee remained at Georgia State for the Ph.D. where he studied under Jacqueline A. Rouse, who chaired both his thesis and dissertation committees. In 2010, Lee completed his doctoral work with the dissertation: “The Nashville Civil Rights Movement: A Study of the Phenomenon of Intentional Leadership Development and Its Consequences for Local Movements and the National Civil Rights Movement.”
                In August 2010, Lee joined the Morehouse College faculty where he teaches World History, Great Men and Women in America and more specialized course on Black Power and the movement. He currently serves as co-advisor to the History Club and faculty advisor for Phi Alpha Theta. Since arriving at Morehouse, Lee has received a grant in 2012 to study Martin Luther King’s leadership, resulting in an article draft in the process of revision for possible publication. He also was a faculty member in 2011 for Morehouse College’s King Papers Collection’s “Summer Institute on Civil Rights and Social Justice.” In the summer of 2013, Lee was selected as a visiting faculty at the Shanghai University (China) for a two-week international faculty exchange program in which he taught American history to Chinese students. More recently, in March 2014 he sat on a panel at the ASBS annual conference dealing with students activists in the South.
                Lee’s work on Nashville forms the basis for his research interests in student activism, models of leadership development, especially the process of “working shopping” or nonviolence training conducted by Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr., so effectively deployed in Nashville and carried across the South by him and his disciples, helping make nonviolence a contagion. Lee is also interested in the evolution of the substance and style of Martin Luther King’s leadership and his relationship to student activists, as well as the intergenerational dynamics of the movement. Additionally, Lee is also deeply interested in the psychological dimensions and costs paid by those who became activists and in the various southern and northern roots of Black Power. From a publication standpoint, Lee recently submitted a biographical profile of James Luther Bevel for Oxford University Press, soon to be published in October 2014. Presently, Lee is revising his dissertation with hopes of publishing it in book form. He is also working on developing an article on “The Lawson Affair,” the expulsion of Lawson from Vanderbilt Divinity School in March 1960.

Debra Leigh is a professor at St. Cloud State University.  During her initial assignment as Director of the Dance program, she taught, ballet, modern, tap, jazz, dance history, dance production and dance composition. She moved the dance program from the College of Education, Physical Education department to the College of Performing Arts; developed new curriculum and assessments; and founded the SCSU Repertory Dance Theater, Summer Dance Institute, the Multicultural Children’s Art Connection and the Full House Children’s Dance Company. In 1993, she became a Fulbright Scholar studying the arts in Indonesia.  The following summer she returned to Bandung, Indonesia as an artist-in-residence and produced a dance concert at the prestigious Akademi Seni Tari Indonesia—(ASTI) Academy of Dance.  During her sabbatical (2002) Debra taught ballet, modern and jazz dance at the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE), renamed the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, and established UPE’s first modern dance company (Namaste Dance).

Currently, Debra serves as the co-founder and lead organizer of the Community Anti-Racism Education (CARE) Initiative. With a mission to build a lasting anti-racist institution, she leads the CARE Anti-Racism Leadership Team and collaborates with a number of campus partners to establish university and community dialogues, programs and events.  Her work has framed the conversations that have led to institutional transformation through policy changes in recruitment, hiring and tenure practices; curriculum development, teaching and research; and the relationship between the university, the community of color and the greater St. Cloud community. Debra designs and facilitates workshops and seminars for students, faculty, staff and community members.  She also trains and coaches faculty and community members to facilitate difficult conversations and workshops. In collaboration with the Multicultural Resource Center at SCSU and the Minnesota Collaborative Anti-Racism Initiative, she launched the award winning Anti-Racist Pedagogy Across the Curriculum Seminar for faculty.  Anti-racist pedagogy offers an analysis of the structural and embedded constraints of systemic discrimination that white privilege maintains.  It also presents the possibility of systemic institutional transformation through curriculum and pedagogic reform.

Debra organized the International Black Women’s Leadership Project, a collaborative research project enabling African and African-American graduate students, faculty and community members to deepen their relationships and to encourage their writing about black women and leadership.  She also designed and organized Omeka, a monthly gathering where African-American women served as hosts for the African women refugees and their families moving into St. Cloud.  These gatherings provided information, mentoring, education, networking and opportunities to build/bridge social capitol.  Within a year, a sister project was also launched with women in the Latina community called LatinaMeka.

Debra’s formal training is in dance.  Her professional interests include the performing and visual arts, anti-racism organizing, leadership development, international education, and success for under-represented students and faculty.  She is currently on sabbatical leave in Washington, DC (spring semester 2014), taking part in a project sponsored by Lumina Foundation for Education to document effective replicable practices that lead to access and success in institutions of higher education for underrepresented students.

Debra holds degrees in dance from the University of Missouri Kansas City (BA), and the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana (MFA).


Kevin LeonardKevin Allen Leonard is a professor and the chair of the history department at Western Washington University in Bellingham. A native of New Mexico who grew up in Casper, Wyoming, Kevin earned his B.A. at Pomona College in Claremont, California, and his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis. Before he joined the faculty at WWU in 1997, Kevin taught at the University of New Mexico and Antioch College. Most of Kevin’s scholarship has focused on race relations in California during and after World War II. He is the author of The Battle for Los Angeles: Racial Ideology and World War II, which was published in 2006 by the University of New Mexico Press. Kevin has published articles in the Western Historical Quarterly, the Journal of the West, and the Journal of the History of Sexuality. He is also the author of seven entries for The Black Past Remembered and Reclaimed: An Online Reference Guide to African American History. Kevin’s research at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, was supported by National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships in 1997 and 2009-2010.  In 1990, Kevin received the Western History Association’s Bert M. Fireman Prize, for the best article by a graduate student published in the Western Historical Quarterly. In 1993, he received the W. Turrentine Jackson Award, given by the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association for the most outstanding dissertation on any aspect of the history of the western United States in the twentieth century. In 2013, Kevin received the Western Washington University Outstanding Faculty Leadership Award. He has served on the executive board and as chair of the bargaining team for the United Faculty of Western Washington, and he currently serves on the WWU President’s Task Force on Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity. He is currently working to complete the manuscript for his second book, whose tentative title is “Race, Rabies, and Rubbish: African Americans and the Environment in Cold War Los Angeles.” Kevin regularly teaches courses in African American history, LGBT experiences in U.S. history, U.S. urban history, and Pacific Northwest history.

Liz LundeenLiz Lundeen is a PhD Candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she is writing a dissertation on African American college presidents and the civil rights movement on publicly funded HBCU campuses (specifically, Jackson State University, North Carolina Central University, and Virginia State University). This past academic year, she presented work from her dissertation at the annual meetings of the Organization for American Historians and the Southern Historical Association. Lundeen has teaching and research interests in the fields of African American history, southern history, oral history, and the history of twentieth-century social movements. She has recently published an essay, “Sarah Dudley Pettey: ‘A New Age Woman’ and the Politics of Race, Class, and Gender in North Carolina, 1869-1906,” in the edited volume North Carolina Women: Their Lives and Times with the University of Georgia Press. Lundeen’s interests in oral history, public history, and the digital humanities are reflected in the following two projects for which she has served as a collaborator through the Southern Oral History Program ( the Civil Rights History Project (a joint project of the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum for African American History and Culture and the Library of Congress,, and Mapping the Long Women’s Movement in the American South (a project of the UNC Digital Innovation Lab, At UNC-Chapel Hill, Lundeen has coordinated the Triangle African American History Colloquium (TAAHC), which hosts an annual conference on New Perspectives in African American History and Culture. As a scholar of the civil rights movement, Lundeen looks forward to participating in the NEH Summer Institute and meeting new colleagues who share her interests. Webpage:

Robert MayerBorn in 1950, Robert Mayer grew up in a post-World War II Cincinnati suburb. He completed teacher certification at the University of Cincinnati in the early 70s. While a student at UC, Mayer ran the Christ Church Boy’s Club working with children from Cincinnati’s east end. After graduating he spent 12 years teaching the social studies at Lewisburg High School in central Pennsylvania.  He obtained his doctorate from Pennsylvania State University and moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he has been a teacher educator at Moravian College for 28 years.

His first love is teaching. Though he works with students who teach at  all levels and in all areas, he has a special focus on teaching the social studies, grades 5-12.

Early in his college teaching days, Mayer wrote about reflective teaching but then moved to writing about teaching history. In his writing and his work as a teacher educator, he encourages current and future teachers to teach their students to think historically.

Mayers writing interests shifted and he started to write for a young audience. He has written several articles for Cobblestone Magazine, including one on voting rights. Then he edited a book on The Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the “At Issue in History” series for Greenhaven Press. His charge was to find and introduce documents that captured the spirit of the debate over the act. The book includes speeches and writings from a variety of people including John Lewis, Barry Goldwater, Martin Lither King Jr., and Everett Dirksen. Next, I wrote When the Children Marched: The Birmingham Civil Rights Movement. That book was published by Enslow in 2008. Both that book and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 won Carter G. Woodson Awards from the National Council for the Social Studies. I also wrote unpublished manuscripts on Diane Nash and the Selma marches. Writing now competes with teaching for my affection.

At Moravian College, Mayer teaches a course entitled the Civil Rights Movement and the Moral Life. He teaches this course with Dr. Kelly Denton-Borhaug, a member of our religion department.  Mayer and Kelly convey both, what happened in the movement and ideas that propelled the movement. The first time they taught the course they invited John Lewis to campus and he came. His talk was the highlight of the course.

Marlon MooreMarlon Moore is a native southerner with deep spiritual, emotional, and biological roots in East Texas. These roots are reflected in her intellectual endeavors, as her research and writing interests involve African American Southern culture(s), LGBTQ identities and expression, and African American spirituality as they are each represented in literature and film. Moore’s recent and forthcoming work can be found in the journals African American Review and Gender Forum; and the essay collections Dialogue 5: Alice Walker (Rodopi), Critical Insights: Gender, Sex, and Sexuality (Salem), and  Sexuality, Religion and the Sacred (Routledge).  Moore’s manuscript, In  the Life and In the Spirit: Homoerotic Spirituality in African American Literature, will be published by SUNY in December 2014.  She is an assistant professor of English at UNC Wilmington.




Nichole RibianszkyNichole Ribianszky received her Ph.D. in history from Michigan State University in May 2011. Her areas of specialization are in African American, U.S., women and gender and comparative black history. She is in the process of transitioning her dissertation, entitled, “‘To Find Shelter She Knows Not Where’: Freedom, Movement, and Gendered Violence among Free People of Color in Natchez, Mississippi, 1779-1865,” into her first book. Dr. Ribianszky is interested in research in the following areas: free blacks, multiracial cooperation, slavery, racial and ethnic passing and motherhood among free people of color. In addition to teaching and research, she worked in archaeology for a number of years and enjoys hiking, traveling and spending time with her family.





Joyce ScottJoyce C. Scott is a native of Mississippi but spent over 31 years in California.  Her early years as a career professional were in the area of Human Resources and Training and Director of a Non-Profit Organization. After she returned to Mississippi in 1990, she began a full-time career as a Professor, teaching first at Alcorn State University in the Social Sciences Department.

After leaving Alcorn State University, she came to Hinds Community College in 2003 as a Sociology Instructor.  While at Hinds, Dr. Scott has been a member of various college committees.  She is currently a member of the Retention Advisory Committee, the Grant Funding Committee, A member of the Destination Graduation Task Force and a member of the Jackson State/Hinds Community College Collaborative Effort on Enrollment.  She served as Department Chair for five years for the Social and Behavioral Sciences division before becoming the Project Director for the Minority Male Leadership Initiative (M2M).

Her educational background includes an undergraduate degree in Sociology/Political Science from Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi,  a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of the Pacific, Stockton, California, a Master of Social Science Degree from Mississippi College, a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from Mississippi College and a Ph.D. Degree in Family Therapy from Amridge University in Montgomery, Alabama.  Her dissertation’s title was “An Ethnography of African American Males Seeking Social Status as College Graduates”.  Dr. Scott has been actively engaged in research on African American males and their struggle in becoming college graduates.

She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and is engaged in a number of Civic organizations throughout Jackson, Mississippi.  She is also a member of Anderson United Methodist Church, Jackson, Mississippi.  Throughout her career, she has earned lots of professional awards that are too numerous to mention.

She is married and has four daughters.

Her motto is:

“Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible”.

Her main goal in life is:

“To improve the human condition”.

Tobin ShearerTobin Miller Shearer is an Associate Professor of History and the director of the African-American Studies Program at the University of Montana. For six years Shearer taught a variety of courses including: Prayer and Civil Rights; Voodoo, Muslim, Church: Black Religion; The Black Radical Tradition; as well as an introduction to African-American Studies and the second-half of the African-American History survey. He also teaches a graduate course, U.S. Religious History. Shearer’s first book, Daily Demonstrators: The Civil Rights Movement in Mennonite Homes and Sanctuaries (Johns Hopkins Press: 2010), argues that there was a parallel process of change taking place in homes and sanctuaries that often gets ignored due to the drama of the streets and sidewalks. He is currently revising a manuscript for New York University Press, An Innocent Exchange: The Fresh Air Rural Hosting Movement and the Boundaries of Racial Freedom, 1939-1979. Here I contend that children engaged in their own freedom struggle as they visited white suburban and rural homes. A new project – Invoking Crisis – focuses on the role of public prayer during the civil rights movement.

Prior to entering graduate school at mid-career, Shearer co-founded and directed a national anti-racism training collective known as Damascus Road (now Roots of Justice). They worked with faith-based mission agencies, denominational offices, and colleges to offer resources for long-term institutional change. The civil rights movement figured prominently in our training program, but Shearer did not have formal historical training. He was fortunate enough to gain that expertise at Northwestern University where he did a dual-PhD in History and Religious Studies and led the African-American Studies program’s dissertation group.

“I am greatly looking forward to conversations with other scholars and pedagogues from across the country who share a passion for teaching about the civil rights movement. On a personal note, I enjoy Montana’s many outdoor recreational opportunities, am an avid participant in Crossfit (my family says you should be forewarned to never ever ask me about my daily work out), and bake a mean peanut butter pie.”

And, here's a link to my webpage:

Jolie A. ShefferJolie A. Sheffer is associate professor of English and American Culture Studies, and an affiliated faculty member in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program, at Bowling Green State University in northwest Ohio. She received her PhD in English Language and Literature from the University of Virginia. She teaches courses in American literature and popular culture since the Civil War, multiethnic American literature, American Studies, and literary theory and cultural studies. She is the author of The Romance of Race: Incest, Mis cegenation, and Multiculturalism in the United States, 1880-1930 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2013).  The Romance of Raceexamines the role of turn-of-the-century women writer-reformers, particularly those of color, in shaping modern U.S. multiculturalism through their invention of a distinct domestic genre featuring interracial families driven by incestuous desires. Using a comparative approach to the study of literary and material culture, she reveals how African American, Asian American, Mexican American, Native American, and Euro-American women writers intervened in mainstream political and literary discourses, creating a truly national literary culture based on racial diversity. Her articles and book reviews have appeared in journals such as MELUS, College Literature, Journal of Asian American Studies, Modern Fiction Studies, and Journal of American Ethnic History. She is currently at work on a new project about competing representations of community and racial identity in contemporary American culture set in the 1960s. She is also involved in digital curation efforts in collaboration with the BGSU special collections libraries.


Sara M. Simons earned her PhD in Educational Theatre from New York University in 2013, where her research focused on the use of drama-based pedagogy to teach about race and privilege. She is presently an adjunct assistant professor at NYU and Bronx Community College.  In addition to working with college students, Dr. Simons also teaches part-time at a NYC public high school.  At NYU, she twice served as a co-facilitator of an Intergroup Dialogue on race, bringing together students from varying racial backgrounds to discuss issues of systemic oppression. Her teaching interests include multicultural education through drama, school and race, and curriculum design.  Dr. Simons was recently awarded the Lorraine Hansberry Arts, Performance, and Media award by NYU for her teaching about race in the arts.

Dr. Simons received her MA from Emerson College and her BA from Wellesley College.  She has previously worked in sexuality education and HIV research, and her other research interests include the intersection of sex education and theatre, race and gender representation onstage, and the experience of preservice teachers of color.  Her work has been published in The Washington Post, TYA Today, The Journal of Applied Arts & Health, and Annals of Behavioral Medicine.  

Tonya Thames-Taylor

Robert TinklerRobert Tinkler is Professor of American History at California State University, Chico,  where he has taught since 2001. Specializing in the early republic, Civil War and  Reconstruction eras (1789 to 1877) as well as in the history of the American South,  Tinkler received his A.B. from Princeton University and his Ph.D. in History from the  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

His publications include James Hamilton of South Carolina (LSU Press, 2004) as well as contributions to The Companion to Southern Literature (LSU Press, 2001), Encyclopedia of Tariffs and Trade in U.S. History (Greenwood Press, 2003), The South Carolina Encyclopedia (South Carolina Humanities Council, 2006), and The Political Lincoln: An Encyclopedia (Congressional Quarterly, 2009). His book reviews have appeared in such publications as The Journal of the Early Republic, The Journal of Southern History, The Georgia Historical Quarterly, and The North Carolina Historical Review, as well as on various on-line sites such as H-South and H-CivWar. His current research interests include issues surrounding fugitive slaves and also Unionists in the Confederacy.

Named Outstanding Teacher for California State University, Chico, in 2009, Tinkler has conducted U.S. history workshops for California school teachers and has been active with the California Council for History Education. During the Spring 2013 semester, he taught courses as a Fulbright Fellow in the Department of American Studies at the University of Innsbruck, Austria. In June 2010, he participated in an NEH Summer Seminar on “The Civil War at 150: New Approaches,” co-sponsored by the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah. He is currently completing a two-and-one-half-year stint as associate dean of Chico’s College of Humanities and Fine Arts.

When not in the classroom, library, or office, he enjoys getting outdoors for running, hiking, and camping, and is a big fan of experiencing new places and people through travel.

Tommy UpchurchT. Adams (“Tommy”) Upchurch was born November 4, 1964, in Lexington, Mississippi.  He attended Durant Municipal Separate School from 1971-1983, graduating with honors.  He matriculated at Holmes Community College in Goodman and Ridgeland, Mississippi in 1984-1986 and again in 1993-1994, before transferring to Delta State University, where he earned a B. S. E. degree in 1996 and a M. E. degree in 1997, both with honors.  He entered the doctoral program in History at Mississippi State University in 1997 and graduated with a Ph. D. and honors in 2001.  As a student, he earned numerous academic honors, including the Sammy O. Cranford Rising History Teacher Award and the William F. LaForge Outstanding History Student Award at Delta State.  He also joined several scholarly societies, including Phi Theta Kappa and Phi Alpha Theta, being elected President of the latter at Mississippi State. 

In 2001, Dr. Upchurch joined the faculty of East Georgia College (now East Georgia State College), where he still teaches today.   He earned tenure in 2006 and promotion to Associate Professor in 2008.  As a professional historian, he has earned honors as well, including winning the Halzell Award for Best Article Published in the Journal of Mississippi History in 2003 for “Why Populism Failed in Mississippi.”  He has published extensively in the topical field African American History/Race Relations and in the chronological field of the Late 19th Century.   His noteworthy books include Legislating Racism: The Billion Dollar Congress and the Birth of Jim Crow (University Press of Kentucky, 2004), Race Relations in the United States, 1960-1980 (Greenwood Press, 2008), and Abolition Movement (ABC-CLIO, 2011).   He has also published some thirty-four scholarly encyclopedia articles, as well as eighteen book reviews.   In addition to scholarship, he has remained active in the field by presenting papers at various history conferences and by attending a NEH Summer Institute on “Slavery in the Georgia and South Carolina Low Country” in 2011.   

Dr. Upchurch is happily married, has three sons and two grandchildren, and resides in Statesboro, Georgia.   He is a member of Compassion Christian Church, where he serves as an usher.  In his spare time, he likes to jog, kayak, bicycle, and play guitar.

Jervette WardJervette R. Ward is an Assistant Professor of English at The University of Alaska Anchorage. She earned a Ph.D. in English – Literary & Cultural Studies from The University of Memphis. Her research and teaching areas focus on American Literature with an emphasis on African American Women's Literature. She recently published the article, "In Search of Diversity: Dick and Jane and Their Black Playmates," in Making Connections: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Cultural Diversity; the introductory essay, "Zora Neale Hurston: Coming Forth as Gold," for the book Zora Neale Hurston: An Annotated Bibliography of Works and Criticism (Scarecrow Press, June 2013); and the book chapter, "Seraph on the Suwanee: Hurston's 'White Novel'" in the book Critical Insights: Zora Neale Hurston (Salem Press, May 2013). Currently, she is editing the book, The Real Scandal: Portrayals of Black Women in Reality TV, and she is writing a book, More Than Just The Help. 

Dr. Ward is a native of Memphis, Tennessee, but she spent the majority of her childhood in Jackson/Pearl, Mississippi. She graduated from Jackson Preparatory School. She is married to Kenneth Ellis, and they have one daughter.

Ward’s university website bio page:

Ward’s personal website:



Trent WattsA native of McComb, Mississippi, Trent Watts is associate professor of American Studies at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. Watts was educated in the Brookhaven, Mississippi public schools and at the universities of Mississippi, Virginia, and Iowa. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago. His writing and research focus on southern cultural history in the twentieth century. He is the author of three books, including Ed King’s Mississippi: Behind the Scenes of Freedom Summer, co-authored with the Rev. Ed King and forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi.

Watts is also editor of the forthcoming Civil Rights in Mississippi series for the University Press of Mississippi, which will reprint titles by journalists and other participants in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He is currently writing a history of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, and is completing an edited collection of essays on sex and sexualities in the recent South. His other published work includes studies of women’s higher education in New Orleans, the novelist John Faulkner, and Mississippi’s Neshoba County Fair. Watts is the recipient of fellowships and grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the North Caroliniana Society of the University of North Carolina, James Madison University, and the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women. At Missouri S&T, he teaches courses on Southern Culture, the South in Film, and American Film of the 1970s.




Dwana Waugh, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of History and Coordinator for the Undergraduate and MAT-History Education programs. She received her B.A. in History and Education from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in American History from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research specializes in African-American Educational History, with a focus on public and oral histories. She examines the connections between race, politics, and historical memory in southern education. As a former public high school teacher, she is committed to exploring these connections between the contemporary past with recent educational policies. Dr. Waugh teaches courses in African-American history and educational methodology.

Katie Zuber is a doctoral candidate in political science at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Her dissertation examines the rise of legal advocacy in the movement for LGBT equality in the United States, with an emphasis on the emergence of litigation in the late 1970s and 80s. In addition to her dissertation, Katie has worked on several collaborate projects featured in Political Communication, Law & Society Review, and Current Municipal Problems. During the 2013 academic year, she taught classes on Legal Mobilization, Law and Gender and The American Supreme Court as a Visiting Instructor at Union College. She is excited to attend this year’s 2014 NEH Summer Institute, Finding Mississippi in National Civil Rights Narrative.