For information about the upcoming Fellowship program, please click here.

About the Fellowship
Through an international competition, the BMRC offers 1-month residential fellowships in the City of Chicago for its Summer Short-term Fellowship Program. Generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation since 2009, the Summer Short-term Fellowship Program has engaged scholars, artists, writers, and public historians from the United States and Europe to better formulate new historical narratives of Chicago’s past. The new, original research and art developed through this program is significant as it illuminates the national and international importance of Chicago’s African American community.

The purpose of the Summer Short-term Research Fellowship is:
* To create research opportunities for scholars and artists to conduct primary research in Chicago-based archival repositories;
* To generate new knowledge in the field of African American history;
* To engage the local Chicago community in the history of their city.

The BMRC has introduced a new cohort model in which scholars, researchers, and artists will be selected based on their work in broad, yet defined, subject areas.

The subject areas slated for 2016 are: Politics; Medical Arts and Public Health

2016 marks the final year of President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House. The City of Chicago’s political matrix, grassroots organizing, and rich political histories provided the foundation and context for Mr. Obama’s rise to Illinois State Senator, US Senator and the President of the United States. The BMRC will solicit research proposals that address the political history of the Black Metropolis.

In 1891, Dr. Daniel Hale William started Provident Hospital and a training school for nurses to serve the health needs of the African American citizens in Chicago. Provident Hospital was the first Black-owned and operated hospital in the United States. Today, the University of Illinois College of Medicine, the largest medical school in the United States, continues to matriculate large numbers of African American students through its programs. Given the importance of this 125-year history in both medical education of African American healthcare providers and delivery of healthcare to African American communities in Chicago, the BMRC will select research proposals that investigate the many facets of the medical arts as they pertain to the lives of African Americans and public health issues in their communities.

2016 BMRC Summer Short-Term Fellows (arranged first by subject and then alphabetically)


Adams, William_HeadshotWilliam H. Adams

Ph.D. Candidate, University of Kansas: American Studies Program

Project title: Windy City Heroines: Black Women’s Activism during the Harold Washington Campaign in 1983

The subject of race, gender, and Chicago politics has not been adequately discussed in historical or current scholarship. Scholars and historians have given limited attention to the role of African American women in Black Chicago politics and social movements. Nevertheless, the lack of scholarship on African American women should not be taken as proof that these women were not involved with the campaign and election of Harold Washington as Chicago’s first African American mayor. The rise of Washington from U.S. Congressman to Mayor came as a result of women led organizations and programs that both spurred and kept the Washington campaign afloat.

De Berry_HeadshotMisty De Berry

Doctoral Student, Northwestern University, Department of Performance Studies

Project title: The Black Feminist Avant-Garde and Socially Engaged Art in Chicago, 1930s-1950s 

Scholars who work within and across the fields of African American history, Black feminist theory, performance studies, art history, social activism and aesthetic praxis will be most affected by both this scholarly and artistic project. The impact of De Berry’s project will not only contribute new perspectives on African American history and the history of Chicago, the project will also make an archival contribution to art history, particularly avant-garde studies by illustrating how Black women’s engagement with the aesthetic realm expanded upon the social functions of art by securing material and legislative needs, such as housing, education and safety from violence.

Mantler_HeadshotGordon K. Mantler, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Writing and of History, The George Washington University

Project title: We Have Won: Harold Washington and Multiracial Politics in the Age of Reagan

Dr. Mantler’s research will investigate the election and administration of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor, to reframe the scholarly and public understanding of U.S. politics in the 1970s and 1980s. Scholars and journalists routinely attribute Washington’s triumph to personal charisma, the rise of independent black political power, and the Democratic machine’s leadership vacuum after the death of Richard J. Daley. While accurate, such framing regularly narrates the story as exceptional to Chicago rather than illustrative of the grassroots politics of the time. By exploring neighborhood coalitions around issues such as worker and immigrant rights, affordable housing, community-police relations, and economic development, Mantler plans to research how the politics in the 1970s and ’80s were not simply the product of a conservative revolution or an unchanging civil rights movement.

Molina_HeadshotDavid Miguel Molina

Doctoral candidate in the Rhetoric and Public Culture Program, Northwestern University

Project title: A Complex Unity: Chicago Social Movements and the Uses of “Coalition,” 1965-1975

Molina’s project analyzes the ways in which “coalition” is deployed as an organizing concept in Chicago social movements after 1965. By analyzing the various ways in which this concept takes on new meaning and weight in social movements in the aftermath of the “classical phase” of the civil rights movement, his work will contribute to a more robust understanding of how freedom struggles in the late 1960s and early 1970s negotiated shifting conditions of collective action—and the crucial role that Chicago movements play therein. In this moment, the question of black liberation becomes increasingly routed through the question of “coalition,” and nowhere are these question more linked than in the Black Metropolis. By showing that the concept of “coalition” has a Chicago history, this project will not only contribute to scholarship on black Chicago and the long civil rights movement, but also to contemporary questions about the role of coalition-building in efforts to build and maintain movements for change.

Nelson_HeadshotNichole Nelson

Doctoral Student in History, Yale University

Project title: Critical Crossroads: Three Suburbs’ Journeys to intentionally Racially Integrate

Nelson’s plan to research how the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois, intentionally racially integrated in order to increase its property values and examines how methods that this community used to integrate can be applied to achieve racial residential integration under federal auspices. This account of white residents encouraging stable integration in response to an influx of black Chicagoans moving to the neighborhood challenges the traditional historical narrative of whites violently reacting or fleeing in response to African-Americans moving to predominantly white communities. Additionally, the correlation between increased property values and greater numbers of homeowners competing in the free market, regardless of race, has the potential to incentivize real estate agents to abandon their long-standing practice of denying African-Americans the homes of their choice.

Newport_HeadshotMelanie Newport

Ph.D. Candidate, Temple University, Department of History

Project title: Cook County Jail: Racism, Violence, and the Dangerous History of Jail Reform

Newport plan to investigate the hidden history of how a local jail became an engine for mass incarceration of African Americans in the decades following World War II.  In documenting human rights abuses, the role of black wardens and guards, and efforts by a pre-dominantly black inmate population to fight for their rights, Newport’s research will illustrate how Cook County Jail became one of black Chicago’s most important political institutions. Newport’s work will tell the stories of millions of black people who made up between 70 and 90% of the jail’s population in the latter half of the twentieth century.  For jail detainees, incarceration at Cook County Jail represented an encounter with white supremacy and state violence. As the first historical study of a major American jail, this history will challenge historians, organizers, policymakers, and citizens to reconsider the devastating impact of pre-trial detention on black communities in Chicago and nationwide.

bio_photo-TaberKevin Taber

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Political Science, Indiana University

Project Title: Politics of the “New” African Diaspora: The Evolution of Political Activities and Activism among Chicago’s African Migrant Associations 

The focus of Taber’s research is to explore factors that shape African migrant organizations’ exposure to, and participation in, democratic politics in the U.S. with a focus on Chicago. Despite decades of public activities, festivals, and activism within Chicago’s African communities, the fact that a scholarly exploration of associational activities and politics is missing from our understanding of Chicago’s political history permits and the broader discussions of immigration and the politics of the Black Metropolis.

Medical Arts/Public Health

Kuehnl_HeadshotNathan D. Kuehnl

Ph.D. Candidate, African American History, Wayne State University

Project title: Health and the Color Line in Postwar America

Kuehnl plans to research several areas for his long-term project. First, the project will advance historical understanding of how the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement influenced health care access and policy. Second, the project will address present-day racial health disparities by investigating the successes and failures of the modern American medical system and its policies and actions. Third, the project will raise awareness of historical and cultural biases and discrimination in health care among medical professionals and policymakers. And finally, the project will engage the public to show how patients and their families have created alternative understandings of health and medicine and have opened access to health care where the system has failed. In this manner, the project will include a digital component consisting of health narratives, both historical and contemporary, that can spread awareness of and validate the struggles of people currently facing an exclusionary health care system. While the initial goal is to contribute to historical research of health and the color line in the United States, the underlying intent of the project is for that knowledge to contribute to the elimination of the racial health gap by affecting institutional action, government policy, and individual efforts.

Kwate headshot Jan27Naa Oyo A. Kwate, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Africana Studies; Associate Professor of Human Ecology; Associate Director, Center for Race and Ethnicity, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

Project title: The Cost of the Burger: Fast Food in Black Urban Neighborhoods, 1955-1995 

Despite the significant amount of literature on food, diet and public health, existing works have not tackled Kwate’s proposed topic; the racial contexts within which fast food has historically operated. Working at the nexus of conversations about race, place and health inequalities, she plans to investigate fast food’s longstanding and vexed relationship with the U.S. Black population, troubling the costs of the industry from public health and beyond. To do so, she will draw on primary sources in Chicago to tell a story that will be of interest to a diverse spectrum of scholars and local researchers. The research will ultimately culminate in a book, one that will find readership in the public health and preventive medicine; in the humanities (history, African American studies, American studies, and food studies); in the social sciences (urban studies, urban planning); and in business and marketing.

Young_HeadshotLisa J. Young

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of American Studies, Purdue University

Project title: Mapping Black Women’s Grassroots Health Activism in Chicago, 1930-1980

Young plans to develop an online digital story map that narrates Black women’s health activism in Chicago during the twentieth century. Mapping a network of grassroots health projects will reveal how Black Chicago women played noteworthy roles mobilizing against poor housing conditions by advocating for the appropriate medical needs of African Americans. For instance, activists were involved in lead removal and water sanitation initiatives, and they distributed health pamphlets to dispel misconceptions about Black people’s predisposition to diseases that were instead due to hazardous living conditions posed by federal housing policies and exploitative landlords. Through organizing, they challenged structural privilege of the built environment. Completion of this story map will permit an intersectional examination of the effects of restrictive covenants and will allow Young to move this history from the archives to public in a digital form to serve as an advocacy map for housing justice.

Other Subjects

Gabriel_HeadshotRami Gabriel, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology, Department of Humanities, History, and Social Science, Columbia College Chicago

Project title: The Sounds of Chicago, Black Metropolis

The impact of Gabriel’s archival work will be giving audio that is rarely consulted for musical purposes a place in the history of the city and reflecting a new understanding of how the ordinary sounds of living have their own poignant beauty. The impact of his field recordings will be, firstly, giving the sounds of contemporary Black Chicago as heard in public spaces a new context as an artistic work. The finished work will be mastered and produced into a limited edition run of 100 copies, which will also be posted free-of-charge at the CBMR blog. Gabriel plans to ‘perform’ the work at various venues, including the Elastic Center for the Arts and selected Chicago public libraries with question and answer sessions concerning methodology and the source of both archival and field recordings.

JeanBaptiste_HeadshotAyinde Jean-Baptiste

Independent Audio Documentarian

Project title: DuSable City

Jean-Baptiste’s research will support a multi-phase participatory media project, which will deploy existing connections across histories of Haitians and US African Americans in Chicago and Haiti in service of multi-generational dialogue around sovereignty/self-determination, local/global solidarity, neoliberalism, crisis/catastrophe, progress and development.  The research will support a future framework, which will allow for the project to reach its transnational potential.