Emory Report
April 30, 2007
Volume 59, Number 29

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April 30, 2007
Mellon grant to fund civil rights scholarships

by beverly clark

Emory has received a $400,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a visiting scholars program that will significantly boost modern civil rights-era scholarship through research, teaching and faculty development.

The program, to be housed in Emory’s James Weldon Johnson Institute for Advanced Interdisciplinary Studies, is the first of its kind to bring together a community of scholars solely focused on the study of the modern civil rights era, from 1905 to today.

The program will build on Atlanta’s and Emory’s existing strengths in civil rights era research, and help firmly establish the University and the city as international centers for civil rights scholarship, said Rudolph Byrd, professor of American studies, who founded the Johnson Institute in 2004 and will direct the Mellon program.
“It is our hope that the Mellon Scholars program will reveal the vibrant points of intersection between the civil rights movement and other social movements in the United States and elsewhere that are committed to human dignity, nonviolence, reconciliation and progressive social change,” Byrd said. “Through the Mellon program, we also hope to produce at Emory a new generation of scholars committed to the investigation of a social movement that is part of our national heritage, our future as Americans and our enduring and dynamic gift to humankind.”

For scholars participating in the Mellon program, the African American Collection of Emory’s Manuscript and Rare Books Library, in combination with the collections at the King Center, Spelman College and Morehouse College, where the Martin Luther King Jr. papers are housed, constitute an extraordinary opportunity for both research and teaching on the modern civil rights movement, Byrd said.

As a result of geography as the spiritual home of the modern civil rights movement and rich archival collections, Atlanta already has numerous scholars at Emory and the Atlanta University Center who are engaged in research on the modern civil rights movement. At Emory alone there are about 29 scholars pursuing research related to civil rights that span the arts, humanities, social sciences, theology and law.

“The announcement of the grant and the development of the Johnson Institute come at a critical stage in Emory’s history,” said Provost Earl Lewis, Asa G. Candler Professor of History and African American Studies and one of the nation’s leading scholars on civil rights and the history of the African American experience. “We have a number of wonderful scholars already working on aspects of the civil rights struggle, and we look to add others. Their strengths, combined with the skills and insights of the fellows in the program, will make this university a significant gathering place for the study of all dimensions of civil rights. Equally important, the new grant dovetails with the city’s efforts to establish a Center for Human and Civil Rights. Both developments speak to an exciting and productive future.”

Administered by the Johnson Institute and sponsored by the departments of African American studies, English, history, music and the American studies program in the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts, the program will support three to five faculty members and independent scholars, both junior and senior, each academic year. Emory will welcome the first cohort of visiting scholars during the academic year 2008-2009.

The visiting scholars program is open to scholars in the humanities, the humanistic social sciences and law. In addition to Byrd, faculty from Emory College, Candler School of Theology, School of Law, as well as Morehouse College and Spelman College will participate in the Mellon program. Along with research, visiting scholars will teach one course per year and participate in a colloquium series sponsored by the Johnson Institute and host public lectures.