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I am a PhD candidate studying African American history, higher education history, and intellectual history. My dissertation project, tentatively titled “Roots to Routes: African American Intellectual Production and the Politics of Higher Education in North Carolina, 1830-1891,” traces the major transformations in African American higher education over the course of the nineteenth century in North Carolina, a pioneering state for the establishment of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). I argue that Black higher education in North Carolina developed as a consequence of complex maneuvers between state and federal forces attempting to control Black education on the one hand, and a burgeoning class of Black intellectuals attempting to raise a generation “up from slavery” on the other. I combine methods from history and political science to position the passage of the Second Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890 as a catalyst that paved the way for the federal government to supplant the Black community as co-laborers in the project of Black higher education. This explains why HBCUs in the twentieth century emphasized industrial education over the hybrid curriculums predominant at their founding. These original curriculums –classical, theological, and vocational in nature— were fundamentally shaped by, and rooted in, the educational practices of enslaved and free Blacks before the Civil War. As such, my project re-frames the broader story of Black higher education by locating its earliest progenitors in the most unlikely of places and in the most unlikely of actors: enslaved laborers at colleges and universities.

I hold an A.B. degree in History with a concentration in African American Studies from Princeton University and a MA in History from Duke University.