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North Adams MCLA prof wins grant to continue research on African-American history

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SOURCE: The Berkshire Eagle

Frances Jones-Sneed, a history professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, was recently awarded a third major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue her exploration of African-American history in the region.

Jones-Sneed will lead “The Role of Place in African-American Biography.” The project involves a four-week summer institute for 25 college and university faculty, who, in June 2011, will travel to MCLA from across the country to explore local African-American history.

Among the Berkshire County African-American figures they will study are Samuel Harris, civil war soldier; W.E.B. DuBois, civil rights activist; Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman, who legally obtained her freedom from slavery; and Agrippa Hull, a patriot of the American Revolutionary War.

After attending the institute, “The professors will go back to their own communities and find their own local figures whom they can link to national themes in the same way we’ve done here in the Berkshires,” Jones-Sneed said in the news release announcing the grant award. “They are coming to see our models so they can replicate them.”

Sponsored by MCLA, the 2011 NEH Summer Institute is a collaborative effort with Williams College and the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail.

In addition to Jones-Sneed, project directors will be Robert Paynter of UMASS-Amherst and Richard Courage of Westchester Community College.

Guest faculty will include Charles Dew and Leslie Brown of Williams College, Joanne Pope Melish of the University of Kentucky, James T. Campbell of Stanford University, David Levinson of the African American Heritage Trail, Gary Nash of UCLA, Gretchen Holbrook-Gerzina of Dartmouth College, Jerrianne Boggis of the University of New Hampshire, Dennis Dickerson of Vanderbilt University, Pulitzer Prize winner David Levering Lewis of New York University, Deborah Willis of New York University, Amritjit Singh of Ohio University, and Emilie Piper of the Berkshire Athenaeum.

The $194,347 NEH grant will pay for travel and housing expenses for visiting faculty of “The Role of Place in African-American Biography.” Successful applicants will receive a stipend of $3,300 each to help defray travel and housing expenses.

Jones-Sneed has taught and researched local history for over 25 years. She is the co-director of the Upper Housatonic Valley African American Heritage Trail, and a board member of MassHumanities and the Samuel Harrison Society. She has directed two other National Endowment for the Humanities grants, “The Shaping Role of Place in African American Biography,” in 2006, and “Of Migrations and Renaissances: Harlem/NY and South Side/Chicago, 1915-75,” in 2008. Both were “We the People” projects.

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