UPDATED: April 18, 2014, at 2:27 a.m.
The Hutchins Center for African and African American Research announced Tuesday its 23 W. E. B. Du Bois fellows for the 2014-2015 academic year, a group that includes professors, students, artists, as well as a former Black Panther.
This year’s application cycle for the Du Bois fellowships drew the most applicants to date, said University Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the director of the Du Bois Institute and its parent organization, the Hutchins Center. He attributed the increase to the “generosity” of donor Glenn H. Hutchins ’77, who endowed both the center that bears his name and a number of new Du Bois fellowships.
“I think this is one of...the strongest group of fellows to come to the Du Bois Institute,” Gates said.
Fellowships with the Du Bois Institute last either the entire academic year or just one semester. During their time at the Hutchins Center, fellows pursue individual research projects that are related to African and African American studies.
A few fellows in this year’s class already teach and research at Harvard. Nevertheless, Maria Tatar, a professor of Germanic languages and literatures and chair of the folklore and mythology program, said that the fellowship opens new doors for research.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to recharge our intellectual batteries, and make sure that we don't fall into teaching the same old same old course,” she said. “It allows us to chart new directions and open up new research interests.”
As a fellow, Tatar will be working on a book with Gates about African American folklore.
Tatar said that the community created by the center is integral to the experience of being a Du Bois fellow.
“For me, it is absolutely essential to be in this community of scholars, many of whom have a deeper understanding of the discipline and can put me in touch with so many colleagues and resources at other institutions,” she said. “[The fellows and I] are so fortunate to have sabbaticals and to have an opportunity to soak in a topic and really be able to dig deeply and broaden our understanding of a topic.”
Funding from the Hutchins Center provides fellows with the time, money, and space they need to conduct their work. Fellows can receive up to $50,000 in funding, according to Gates.
Northwestern University history professor and newly announced fellow Kate Masur said that the basic support from the Hutchins Center is important, saying that the fellowship offers “time and...a space to work on [my] project.”
Since it was formed in September, the Hutchins Center has served as the umbrella organization for about a dozen programs in the field of African and African American studies at Harvard, including the Hiphop Archive and Research Institute. The move financially united these initiatives with a $15 million gift from Hutchins, a co-chair of the Harvard Campaign and one of the University’s most high-profile donors.
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