NEH Long-Term Fellows

2024–2025 NEH Long-Term Fellows

Rich Benjamin
Independent Researcher
Talk to Me: Daniel Fignolé,  America, and the World

Talk to Me is a book-length study of democracy and the Cold War in America, focused through the lens of race and the historical figure Daniel Fignolé (1913-1987). The book reveals how the character of our present politics and our collective American identity have been dynamically reshaped by the forced displacement of Caribbean migrants. 

May Jeong
Independent Researcher
THE LIFE: Sex, Work and Love in America

THE LIFE explores the ways sex work intersects with the American criminal system.


2023–2024 NEH Long-Term Fellows

Gao Yunxiang 高云翔 , PhD
History Professor, Toronto Metropolitan University 
Soo Yong: Hollywood Actress and Asian Diaspora Cosmopolitan

This biography reintroduces Soo Yong’s vibrant career from the 1920s until early 1980s as a stage, film, and television actress, and monologist. She appeared in six Broadway productions, twenty-three major Hollywood pictures, and eight TV programs. Gao's research is based on exhaustive readings of rarely used archival sources scattered in U.S. National Archives, libraries at numerous colleges and universities in the United States and China, and Yong’s private papers. The book recaptures Yong’s unique saga from the Jim Crow and Chinese Exclusion eras. It explores how her advanced American education under the noted educator and philosopher John Dewey and transpacific connections with Chinese diplomats, intellectuals, and artists such as "King of Peking opera" Mei Lanfang nurtured her ethnic dignity and artistic talent. Such a highly intellectual, aristocratically glamourous, yet asexual image of an Asian woman on screen and stage broke down dominant stereotypical images of Dragon Lady and Lotus Blossom, defying and diversifying conventional narratives on Asian Americans. The biography connects studies of race, immigration and citizenship, gender, and international relations, modeling what a fully multilingual and transnational Asian and Asian-American history can be. It rediscovers key players of Sino-American cultural politics, reconnects political domains, and blazes new paths in Sino-American history.

Hannah Esther Zaves-Greene, PhD
Visiting Professor, Sarah Lawrence College
Able to Be American: Disability in U.S. Immigration Law and the American Jewish Response

In 1891, the United States Congress codified an expanded version of the public charge provision, excluding and deporting immigrants on a far-reaching array of physical, mental, and economic grounds.  Zaves-Greene asks what motivated American Jewish communal leaders’ multifaceted efforts to contest public charge’s pathologization of poverty and commodification of health, and how in the process they shaped notions of national belonging. In challenging the law and its administration, American Jewish women and men posited their own ideas of nation and citizen, while navigating intra-communal gendered tensions and articulating anxieties about their status as ethnoreligious outsiders in the United States. Through exploring their responses to public charge’s classification of immigrants into “desirable” and “undesirable,”  Zaves-Greene considers how American Jews’ actions and rhetoric facilitated their political growth and amplified their public voices in their chosen home.


2022–2023 NEH Long-Term Fellows

Susannah Hollister, PhD
Independent Researcher 
The Circus: Kenneth Koch’s Life and Art

This co-authored critical biography will be the first book-length study of Kenneth Koch (1925–2002), a transformative, though significantly under-examined figure in post-World War II literature. Known as a founding New York School poet and pioneer in creative writing instruction, Koch enlarged the scope of poetry: its tone and subject matter, its range of readers and writers, and the public reach of the poet in U.S. society. The biography draws on extensive archival materials and interviews to reveal a writer intent on sharing the excitements of poetic innovation, and to illustrate the powerfully mixed legacy of the postwar avant-garde in contemporary literary pedagogy, practice, and culture.

Caroline Riley, PhD
Research Associate, Department of Art and Art History, University of California, Davis
Thérèse Bonney and the Power of Global Syndicated Photography

Caroline Riley’s book on Thérèse Bonney (1894–1978), a prolific photographer, collector, curator, and American spy, explores how Americans, and the larger global public, learned about international conflicts through the syndication of her photographs. Through the Bonney Service, she dispersed photographs taken in nineteen countries to a global market of thirty-three nations. Her photographic and business innovations permitted the dissemination of Bonney herself as a professional woman artist.

2021–2022 NEH Long-Term Fellows

Nicholas Boggs, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor, New York University  
James Baldwin in Love (working title)

This book will be the first major James Baldwin biography to tell the overlapping stories of his relationships with four pillars of his adult life—his mentor, the Black American painter Beauford Delaney; his lover and muse, Swiss painter Lucien Happersberger; and his collaborators, famed Turkish actor Engin Cezzar and French artist Yoran Cazac. His unconventional relationships with these men, and the different forms of love he shared with them, were instrumental in his many successes, both personal and artistic. Complex structures within these relationships— geographical, cultural, political, artistic, psychological, and erotic—gave context to Baldwin’s work and sustained his life. Indeed, this book seeks to show how he fed on these complexities and alchemized them into art.

Emily Brooks, PhD
Adjunct Faculty, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
Gotham's War Within a War: Anti-Vice Policing, Militarism, and the Birth of Law-and-Order Liberalism in New York City, 1934–1945

Gotham’s War Within a War explores how the liberal administration of Mayor La Guardia and his longtime Police Commissioner Lewis Valentine ushered a new era of policing into being in mid-twentieth-century New York City. It examines the role of militarism in enabling municipal regimes of surveillance and incarceration and considers how city officials used prohibitions on low-level crimes of morality or vice as a tool to enforce a racist and gendered vision of urban order. Weaving together research conducted at many disparate archival collections, this book will construct a historical narrative of 1930s and 1940s policing that uses methodological interventions from urban history, gender history, and African American history, as well as from critical studies of policing in sociology and political science.