Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation
This page has been archived. It is no longer updated.

NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers 2015


NEH Logo

Immigration, Migration, and the Transformation of the African-American Community in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Dates:  July 13-31, 2015
Location:  Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Harlem, New York
Application Deadline: March 2, 2015
Stipend: $2,700
Eligibility requirements here.

Guadelope WomanProgram overview

Immigration and migration movements represent universal human experiences and expressions that ultimately transform societies and exploring these complex conditions offers a critical opportunity to understand the evolving notions of identity, culture, democracy, race and ethnicity. However, understanding immigration and migration movement within the context of black America has been far too limited to the narrative of slavery. Yet it is the black migration experience that gave birth to the nation as we know it today.

Migration has been central in the making of African-American history and culture and in the total American experience. The transatlantic slave trade was fundamental to the development of the colonial economy; and after the War of Independence, the domestic slave trade was the engine that enabled the expansion of the cotton economy not only within the United States but also, through trade, to the international scene. In the twentieth century, black migrations from the South were crucial to America's urban industrial development. They transformed a southern, rural population into a national, urban one, and the black presence throughout the country has influenced American legal systems as well as social and cultural policies and practices. The achievements of the Civil Rights movement opened the door of opportunity to people of color the world over through the Immigration Act of 1965. In turn,  the cultures of black immigrants from the Caribbean, South America and Africa have had an extraordinary impact on American arts and culture.

Built upon the foundation of the Schomburg Center’s groundbreaking exhibition In Motion: The African American Migration Experience, this Summer Institute will underscore and explain the extraordinary diversity of African American communities that is reflected in contemporary classrooms.

The Institute will guide teachers through a course of study — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — with both chronological breadth and place-based depth.  It will feature a robust schedule of educational activities including scholarly lectures, small group seminars, archival research, curriculum labs, film screenings, exhibition visits and extensive interactions with the library’s digital collections.  Each day will include reading periods for teachers to study, reflect, journal, and create tangible connections to their classroom curriculum work.

Set in New York City, the institute will take full advantage of the living history the City’s vibrant immigrant communities, historical landmarks and cultural institutions.  Participants will develop practical knowledge and experience from the worlds outside of books through neighborhood walking-tours, visits to religious and civic spaces, ethnic dining experiences, and interaction with the storytellers and tradition-bearers from within these communities.

Teachers who are grounded in the knowledge of these African-American migratory traditions will be better able to transmit richer content and contexts in their American history curricula toward a more comprehensive examination of America’s global cultural composition.   This unique educational experience will allow them to deeply engage with our topics, to dialogue with fellow teachers about classroom implications and applications, and to create new or revised learning materials for their students.

Great Migration Map 1916 to 1930

To the NorthSchedule

Week one will examine black migration and immigration from 1600 to the 1930s.  This scholarship will begin with millions of Africans involuntarily sent to the Americas via the Transatlantic Slave Trade and track the resulting migratory patterns of African descendants in the United States through The Great Migration.  Faculty presentations will utilize archival images, maps, primary source documents, narratives, art, literature, and digital materials to illuminate the histories of colonial immigration/migrations, early black immigration through Ellis Island,  and the migrations related to the domestic slave trade, runaway journeys, emancipation, The Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance, and Caribbean immigration to New York in 1900-1930.

Week two will explore the immigration and migration patterns that took shape from the 1940s to the present and that was propelled by the Civil Rights Movement, African decolonization, and the 1965 Immigration Act.  In this time period, international migration from the Caribbean and Africa intersects the movement of black Americans to the North and West and reshapes political, cultural, and social dynamics.  Faculty presentations will included topics such as urbanization and black life, the civil rights struggle, African decolonization, Post-1965 Caribbean social movements and immigration, contemporary African immigration.  The week will end with a visit to the New York African Burial Ground National Monument in Lower Manhattan where participants will engage in multi-disciplinary learning activities about this colonial African heritage site.  Lastly, the group will travel to Brooklyn to experience the legacy of Brooklyn’s black past and intersections with the underground railroad and many diverse immigrant communities.

Urban League BulletinWeek three builds on the knowledge of the first two weeks as it explores the interactions between these diverse migratory populations and examines the resulting impact on the new cultures, religions, arts, and languages produced.  Using literature, art, and music to reveal the dynamic identity politics, week three tackles African-American migration literature, African Diaspora religions of Harlem, the shifting definitions of twentieth-century blackness, and the emergence of hip-hop culture as a hybridization of global black migratory experiences.

Participants will be engaged in the collegial intellectual inquiry of the institute in a number of ways.  First, they will form a learning community through structured networking activities that set the tone for the daily intellectual, diverse, and bias-free discourse that will guide our collaborative experiences.  Each day will begin with reflective activities designed to access the participant’s prior knowledge and new thinking about daily topics.  

Faculty presentations will be followed by socratic seminar style dialogues to examine the issues, articulate divergent points of view, and construct meaning through active listening and a robust exchange of ideas.  To advance conversations beyond the confines of the daily schedule, participants will actively contribute to the institute’s social media platforms (History Pin, Tumblr., or Facebook) where they will create and post images, quotes, links to text and additional resources that will enrich their research and curriculum building work.  Posting and commenting to our designated shared social media spaces will foster a community of open access portfolios, and it will harbor sustainable exchanges of ideas and resource to bridge their group work and their independent study.

In Motion CoverCore readings will be drawn from the Schomburg Center’s website, In-Motion: The African-American Migration Experience and supplemented by readings from the works of the presenting faculty. Participants will engage with the faculty in robust discussions about the issues, and they will be prompted to journal their responses to essential questions each day that will be aimed at charting their accumulated understanding of this history.

Outcomes/take-aways for teachersAfrican Family

Over the course of the institute, participants will assemble their own personal trans-media resource library.

This resource library will include:

  • Collected readings and books disseminated
  • A portfolio of artifacts and resources collected from the Schomburg’s and The New York Public Library’s on-site collections, digital archives, and websites
  • Sample lesson plans culled from existing collections
  • Newly created lesson plans and curriculum resource sets designed as part of their group work
  • Photo and journal documentation of group trips and walking tours to historic sites and cultural institutions in New York City
  • Collected on-line articles, links, quotes, and images posted to the institute’s social media platform.

The institute will culminate with an afternoon of participant presentations that allow teachers to demonstrate their accumulated knowledge through their portfolios and reflections, and to share the instructional materials they created as group projects.  Presentations happen before an invited audience of faculty, scholars, Schomburg staff, and educators.  It will be followed by a closing reception.

All participants will be asked to complete a final evaluation survey to help the institute director’s assess the program’s learning goals and outcomes.

Eligibility criteria

Find requirements here.

How to apply

  • Application Cover Sheet: The NEH provides an online application cover sheet for you to complete.  The form can be accessed here. Please follow the prompts.  Before you click the “submit” button, print out three (3) copies of the cover sheet.  You will add them to your application package.
  • Resume with References: Please include a resume or a brief biography detailing your educational qualifications and professional experience.  Be sure the resume provides the name, title, phone number, and e-mail address of two professional references.
  • Application Essay: Your essay should be no more than four double-spaced pages.  It should address your reasons for applying; your interests, both academic and personal, in African-American migration and immigration; the qualifications and experiences that equip you to do the work of the institute and make a contribution to the learning community.  Please state what you want to accomplish by participating, and how the project relates to your professional responsibilities.
  • Assemble the Application Package:  Mail three (3) copies of each component: the application coversheet, your resume, and your essay postmarked no later than March 2, 2015, to: Education Department (NEH Institute), Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard — 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10037.

Application Review Process

Successful applicants will be notified by email of their selection on March 30, 2015, and they will have until April 3, 2015 to accept or decline the offer.  Please note, once you have accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program, you may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.

Equal Opportunity Statement:  Endowment programs do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age.  For further information, write to NEH Equal Opportunity Officer, 400 7th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20024.  TDD: 202/606-8282 (this is a special telephone device for the Deaf).

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Program directors

Deirdre Lynn Hollman is the Director of Education and the Junior Scholars Program at the Schomburg Center.  As such, she is responsible for engaging teachers and learners of all ages with the Schomburg’s collections through year-round programming for youth and teens; professional development workshops for teachers; school day programs for K-12 students; curriculum development partnerships with schools and community organizations; public lecture series for adults, and providing educational advisement for exhibitions.  Deirdre is also the Director of the Schomburg’s Summer Education Institute, an annual week-long professional development series for K-16 teachers, community educators, and college students. A graduate of Princeton University with a bachelor’s degree in art history, Deirdre earned her master’s degree from Bank Street College where she specialized in museum education, middle school education and educational leadership.  Currently, she is pursuing her doctorate in education at Teachers College, Columbia University.  Her research interests include history and social studies education, critical literacies, youth identity development, and the transformational power of arts education.  Deirdre launched her career in the arts as a filmmaker, playwright and poet.  Born and raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, she now resides in Harlem with her son.

Sylviane A. Diouf, Ph.D. is an award-winning historian of the African Diaspora. She is the author of Slavery’s Exiles: The Story of the American Maroons and Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas, both with NYU Press. Diouf's book Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (Oxford University Press) received the 2007 Wesley-Logan Prize of the American Historical Association, the 2009 Sulzby Award of the Alabama Historical Association and was a finalist for the 2008 Hurston/​Wright Legacy Award. She is the editor of Fighting the Slave Trade: West African Strategies (Ohio University Press) and the co-editor of In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience (National Geographic). She has written books for children on African history and American slavery. Kings and Queens of West Africa, part of a four-book series, won the African Studies Association 2001 Africana Book Award for Older Readers. Her illustrated book Bintou's Braids has been translated into French and Portuguese. A recipient of the Rosa Parks Award, the Dr. Betty Shabazz Achievement Award, and the Pen and Brush Achievement Award, Dr. Diouf is the director of the Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery and a Curator at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture where she has curated digital and physical exhibitions on Africans in India, African American migrations, the abolition of the slave trade, the African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean world, and the Black World in the 20th century.


Kobina Aidoo is a self-described African non-American. Aside from making documentaries, he is a consultant for the World Bank in Washington, DC. He considers himself a public policy analyst with a camera. He originally came from Ghana to America to study at Barry University in Miami. Like other immigrants, four years has turned into twelve years. He has since worked with Warner Bros. Publications, Intel Computer Clubhouse and De Beers. He has also performed economic consulting assignments for governments in the Middle East and Africa. Kobina holds a Master in Public Policy degree with a specialty in International Trade and Finance from Harvard Kennedy School of Government where he also served as co-chief editor of Africa Policy Journal.

Davarian Baldwin, Ph.D. is a historian, cultural critic, and social theorist of urban America. His work largely examines the landscape of global cities through the lens of the African Diasporic experience. Baldwin’s related interests include intellectual and mass culture, universities and urban development, the racial foundations of academic thought, competing conceptions of modernity, Black radical thought and transnational social movements, and the racial economy of heritage tourism, His teaching brings together urban and cultural studies, 20th Century U.S. History, and African American Studies. Baldwin is the author of Chicago’s New Negroes: Modernity, the Great Migration, and Black Urban Life (UNC, 2007) and co-editor, with Minkah Makalani, of the essay collection Escape From New York! The New Negro Renaissance beyond Harlem (Minnesota, 2013). Baldwin is currently at work on two new single-authored projects, Land of Darkness: Chicago and the Making of Race in Modern America (Oxford University Press) and UniverCities: How Higher Education is Transforming Urban America. He is editing the Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance: Using the Present to Excavate the Past (Greenwood Publishers) and serves as a consultant for the 2014 national art retrospective Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist.

Raquel Cepeda is a writer and documentary filmmaker Raquel Cepeda is the author of Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina (Atria/ Simon & Schuster), equal parts memoir about Cepeda’s coming of age in New York City and Santo Domingo, and detective story chronicling her yearlong journey to discover the truth about her ancestry. The book, now out in paperback, is the first non-academic memoir written by a Dominican-American author to be published in the popular market; it also looks at what it means to be Latina and American, or ambicultural, today. A former magazine editor, Cepeda has written extensively about identity, race, Latino issues, hip-hop culture and music, and travel for The New York TimesThe Village Voice,, and many others publications. Cepeda directed and produced "Bling: A Planet Rock," the critically acclaimed documentary produced by VH1 and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) about American hip-hop culture’s obsession with diamonds and how that obsession intersected itself into Sierra Leone’s decade-long conflict. She is currently in production on "SOME GIRLS," a documentary following a group of Latina-American teens from a Bronx-based suicide prevention center that are transformed, in part, by an exploration of their roots via the use of ancestral DNA testing. A New York Foundation of the Arts fellow in screenwriting, Cepeda lives with her husband, daughter, and son in her beloved New York City. 

Kaysha Corinealdi, Ph.D. is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Her work focuses on the African diaspora in the Americas, modern Latin American and Caribbean history, and the intersections between race, gender, and empire in United States-Latin American relations. She is currently working on her first book manuscript, which examines how West Indian Panamanians, the descendants of the black men and women who built the Panama Canal, challenged accepted notions of citizenship and belonging in twentieth-century Panama and the United States. Kaysha received her Ph.D. in History from Yale University in 2011.

Maryemma Graham, PhD  - Dr. Maryemma Graham has been professor of English at the University of Kansas since 1998, including one year as the Langston Hughes Professor. Author or editor of eight books, including The Cambridge Companion to the African American Novel, Teaching African American Literature: Theory and Practice, a complete collection of Frances Harper's poetry, and a book of conversations with Ralph Ellison, she is perhaps best known for her scholarship and programs on Langston Hughes (the 2002 Langston Hughes Centennial and International Symposium; the Langston Hughes National Poetry Project ); Margaret Walker (3 books published and a biography, The House Where My Soul Lives: The Life of Margaret Walker scheduled for release in 2010 by Oxford); Richard Wright (Richard Wright Newsletter, Co-Chair Richard Wright Centennial, involving more than 20 planned 2008 events in Europe, US and Japan) and Toni Morrison (President of the Toni Morrison Society 2004-7, director of the Language Matters Teaching Initiative). Graham has been a John Hope Franklin Fellow at the National Humanities Center, an ACLS fellow and a recipient of more than ten grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Farrah Jasmine Griffin, Ph.D., B.A., Harvard (1985); Ph.D.,Yale (1992)has major fields of interest in American and African American literature, music, history and politics. The recipient of numerous honors and awards for her teaching and scholarship, in 2006-2007 Professor Griffin was a fellow at the New York Public Library Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. She is the author of Who Set You Flowin’: The African American Migration Narrative (Oxford, 1995), If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday (Free Press, 2001) and Clawing At the Limits of Cool: Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Greatest Jazz Collaboration Ever (Thomas Dunne, 2008). She is also the editor of Beloved Sisters and Loving Friends: Letters from Addie Brown and Rebecca Primus (Knopf, 1999) co-editor, with Cheryl Fish, of Stranger in the Village: Two Centuries of African American Travel Writing(Beacon, 1998) and co-editor with Brent Edwards and Robert O'Meally of Uptown Conversations: The New Jazz Studies (Columbia University Press, 2004).

Carole Marks, Ph.D. is a professor of sociology at the University of Delaware. She has published three books, Farewell, We're Good and Gone: The Great Black Migration; The Power of Pride: Stylemakers and Rulebreakers of the Harlem Renaissance; and A History of African Americans in Delaware and Maryland's Eastern Shore, and numerous articles on migration and the urban underclass. Before moving to the University of Delaware in 1987, Professor Marks held research positions at Duke and Harvard universities as well as teaching positions at St. Lawrence University, Brown University and Williams College.

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Ph.D. is the Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research division of the New York Public Library, and a former associate professor of history at Indiana University. In July 2010, he was selected to take over the helm of the historic Schomburg Center, which is currently celebrating its 87th year. Dr. Muhammad, a native of Chicago’s South Side, is an award-winning author. His book The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America, published by Harvard University Press, won the 2011 John Hope Franklin Best Book award in American Studies. As an academic, Dr. Muhammad is at the forefront of scholarship the importance of history education to combat historical illiteracy, and on the enduring link between race and crime that has shaped and limited opportunities for African Americans. He is now working on his second book, Disappearing Acts: The End of White Criminality in the Age of Jim Crow, which traces the historical roots of the changing demographics of crime and punishment so evident today.

Brenda Gayle Plummer, Ph.D. is a historian whose research includes race and gender, international relations, and civil rights. Her work ranges from essays on Haitian-American relations to studies of Afro-Americans, race, and foreign affairs. Plummer has taught Afro-American history throughout her twenty years experience in higher education. Plummer has taught at historically black Fisk University, the University of California Santa Barbara, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Wisconsin. Plummer's publications include articles and reviews that have appeared in such journals as Phylon, International History Review, TransAfrica Forum, Latin American Research Review, Diplomatic History, American Historical Review, and the Journal of American History.

Holly Reed, Ph.D. is assistant professor of sociology at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY) and a faculty associate of the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR). Her research interests include: internal migration, urbanization, international migration, social networks, forced migration, and demographic dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa—including Ghana, South Africa, and Nigeria—and the United States. Dr. Reed’s current research projects are: 1) a mixed-methods data collection and analysis project on the health and welfare of African immigrants in the U.S.; 2) a historical analysis of internal migration and social networks in South Africa during and after the apartheid era; and 3) a quantitative policy analysis of population, social and economic changes in Nigeria. Professor Reed previously served as a program officer for the Committee on Population of the National Academies in Washington, DC, where she wrote and edited reports on various topics in international demography, including urbanization and development, forced migration, maternal mortality, and fertility change. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Brown University, as well as an M.A. in demography and a B.S. in international relations from Georgetown University.

Josef Sorett, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Religion and African-American Studies at Columbia University. He is an interdisciplinary historian of religion in America, with a particular focus on black communities and cultures in the United States. His research and teaching interests include American religious history; African American religions; hip hop, popular culture and the arts; gender and sexuality; and the role of religion in public life. Josef earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies from Harvard University; and he holds a B.S. from Oral Roberts University and an M.Div. from Boston University. In support of his research, Josef has received fellowships from the Louisville Institute for the Study of American Religion, The Fund for Theological Education, Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for American History and Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies.

Salamisha Tillett, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She has a secondary appointment in the Department of Africana Studies and is a Core Teaching and Faculty member of Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. She received her Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization in 2007 and A.M. in English from Harvard University and her M.A.T. from Brown University. Her book Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination (Duke University Press, 2012) examines why and how contemporary African American artists, writers, and intellectuals remember antebellum slavery within post-Civil Rights America. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, Sites of Slavery argues that despite mainstream attempts to ignore the socio-economic legacies of slavery, post-Civil Rights African American artists and writers, such as Annette Gordon-Reed, Bill T. Jones, Randall Robinson, and Kara Walker, strategically re-imagine slavery to challenge the ongoing exclusion of African Americans from America’s civic myths and to model a racially democratic future.

Irma Watkins, Ph.D. is the author of Blood Relations: Caribbean Immigrants and the Harlem Community, 1900-1930 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996). She is currently working on a study of African American women, migration and community in New York City from 1898-1945. She serves on the Executive Board of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society as a member of the Program Committee. A member of the Department of African and African American Studies, Dr. Watkins-Owens serves as the department's Chair and teaches courses in American Pluralism, African American history, and on African American women and migration.

Planning your stay in New York City

The Schomburg Center is located in the heart of Harlem.  Participants will provided a list of housing options a short  distance away by subway or bus.  The Institute will seek conference rates and obtain the best housing packages available.  Housing will likely be the most costly item for the participants. Participants will have easy access to New York City via airports, Amtrak trains, and interstate buses.  There is easy access to the Schomburg Center by subway and buses.