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Meet our summer scholars

NEH Summer Scholars

Our 25 Summer Scholars will embark on an intensive study of Zora Neale Hurston’s wide range of cultural production, including her fiction, ethnography, and essays. During our three-week virtual Institute, they are required to participate actively in this work by engaging asynchronous presentations, attending synchronous discussions, and collaborating on research and teaching projects. Summer Scholars will provide an evaluation at the end of the program, and they will be invited to reconvene at the 2022 Zora! Festival in Eatonville, Florida.


Jalylah Burrell

Jalylah Burrell is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies at San José State University. An alumna of Spelman College, she holds a Ph.D. in American Studies and African American Studies from Yale University. Her scholarship was previously supported by postdoctoral fellowships at DePaul University’s African and Black Diaspora Department and Rice University’s Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Her research and teaching are focused on African Diasporic literature and popular culture and are enhanced by experience as a storyteller, pop culture critic, digital producer, oral historian, and deejay. Her current book project is titled “Capacity for Laughter: Black Women and the American Comedic Tradition.”


Jane Caputi

Jane Caputi is a Professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at Florida Atlantic University. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Bowling Green State University. She received the Popular Culture Association’s Eminent Scholar award in 2016 and the Association for the Study of Women in Mythology’s Saga Award in 2020. She has made two educational documentaries: The Pornography of Everyday Life (2006) and Feed the Green: Feminist Voices for the Earth (2016). She is the author of The Age of Sex Crime (1987); Gossips, Gorgons and Crones: The Fates of the Earth (1993); Goddesses and Monsters: Women, Myth, Power and Popular Culture (2004) and Call Your “Mutha’” A Deliberately Dirty-Minded Manifesto for the Earth Mother in the Anthropocene (2020).


Devon Epiphany Clifton

Devon Epiphany Clifton is a doctoral candidate in the English department at Brown University. She holds an M.A. in English and American Literature from New York University. Her current work in black literary theory explores the usefulness of psychoanalytic thinking for Black Studies as a discipline. Her dissertation, provisionally titled “A Psychoanalytics for the Study of Blackness,” thinks through Hurston’s work and the figuration of Hurston herself within Black Studies. Her research also engages: queer, aesthetic, Black feminist, and Caribbean and Afro-diasporic studies. She has dreams of one day excelling in the craft of the personal essay.


Mary Corliss

Mary Corliss is an Assistant Professor of English at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. She holds an M.A. in English from Stetson University and has done doctoral work at the University of Central Florida. She teaches composition in the general education program and honors college, teaches upper-division literature courses, and co-directs the writing center on campus. She was the co-recipient of a grant to interview people who remembered Zora Neale Hurston during the brief period she taught on the Bethune-Cookman campus, which is located only 50 miles from Hurston’s hometown of Eatonville. Bethune-Cookman also holds its own annual Hurston conference that it hopes to expand to include community members as well as other colleges.


Marina del Sol

Marina del Sol is a Master Instructor in the English Department at Howard University. She received a Ph.D. in Folklore and Anthropology from the Américo Paredes Center for Cultural Studies at The University of Texas at Austin and a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies from the University of California at Berkeley. As an ethnographer and interdisciplinary scholar, her research looks at the ways in which language, culture, and identity shape citizenship and experiences of belonging in the United States. She serves as the ethnographic researcher for the “Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park Ethnohistory: African American Communities in Context” team at Bowie State University, and has been a scholar with the Black Book Interactive Project at the University of Kansas.


Amy A. Foley

Amy A. Foley teaches modern literature and philosophy at Providence College and is a postdoctoral research fellow with the American Association of University Women. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Rhode Island. Her scholarly work can be found in Faulkner and Slavery (2021), Modern Language StudiesIrish Studies Review, the Virginia Woolf Miscellany, and Chiasmi International. Her completed manuscript under review, On the Threshold: Modernism, Doorways, and Building with the Body studies the doorway in modernist fiction as a politicized experience. Her current manuscript, entitled Moving Fiction, Tracing the Body, explores the philosophy of bodily motion in the novel. 


Gary Ford

Gary Ford is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Lehman College. He holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland, in addition to an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the New School and a J.D. from Columbia University. His teaching focuses on literature- and film-based courses, Afrofuturism, and traditional civil rights-based courses with a strong emphasis on intersectional feminism. He is the author of Constance Baker Motley: One Woman’s Fight for Civil Rights and Equal Justice Under Law (University of Alabama Press, 2017), which chronicles the life of the country’s first African American female federal judge .


Michelle Cowin Gibbs

Michelle Cowin Gibbs is an Assistant Professor and head of the B.A. program in Theatre Arts at Illinois Wesleyan University. She received a Ph.D. in Theatre from Bowling Green State University and holds an M.F.A. in Acting from the University of California, Irvine. Her scholarly research interests include a spectrum of interdisciplinary studies in Black dance performance, Black performativity, and critical identity studies in and around The New Negro movement in early 20th century Black modernist theatre. As a solo performance artist, Michelle uses her body as a site for inquiry into how Black racialization and Black female sexualization manifest into performances of affect – teetering between the spaces of tragic/comical and repulsive/alluring.


Lyndon K. Gill

Lyndon K. Gill is an Associate Professor in the Department of African &African Diaspora Studies, the Department of Anthropology, and the Center for Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He received his Ph.D. in African American Studies and Anthropology from Harvard University, and has received postdoctoral fellowships from Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Ford Foundation. His first book Erotic Islands: Art and Activism in the Queer Caribbean was published by Duke University Press in 2018. He is also a poet and installation artist.


LaToya Jefferson-James

Latoya Jefferson James is an Assistant Professor of English at Mississippi Valley State University. She holds a Ph.D. in English Language and LIterature from the University of Mississippi. She is the author of Masculinity Under Construction: Literary Re-Presentations of Black Masculinity in the African Diaspora (2020), which explores different constructions of masculine identity produced by men of African descent on the continent of Africa, in the Caribbean, and in North America. She is currently working on a two-volume collection of criticism and pedagogical essays on Black women writers.


Jacqueline M. Jones

Jacqueline M. Jones is a Professor of English at LaGuardia Community College, which is a part of the City University of New York (CUNY). She holds a Ph.D. from the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She teaches composition, literature, and liberal arts courses; is the co-founder of LaGuardia’s Women, Gender, and Sexuality Option in Liberal Arts; and currently serves as a Writing Program Administrator. Dr. Jones’s research interest includes Black Feminist Theory, 20th and 21st century African American literature and media studies, and Black women writers. Her work has been published in Modern Language Studies, College English, and College Language Association Journal.


Johnny Jones

Johnny Jones teaches at Simmons College of Kentucky, the 107th Historically Black College/University. He holds an M.A. in Performance Studies from New York University and an M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts. He has taught at multiple universities in multiple disciplines, including Theatre Arts, African American Studies, Modern to Contemporary African American Theatre, and Composition. A native and writer of the Arkansas Delta, he focuses on Black narratives in modern and contemporary African American theatre and media. His peer-reviewed publications, university theatre productions, and performance compositions cover a wide range of topics and narratives in Black performativity.


Michelle Jones

Michelle Jones is an English instructor interested in furthering her knowledge of the complexity of the intersectional being of the African-American woman. She is a graduate of Fisk University, where she received her BA in English with a minor in Women and Gender Studies. She also received an MA in English with a concentration in Literary Studies from Eastern Illinois University. Jones currently teaches a Hy-Flex introductory course on Academic Writing at Aurora University. In the future, she plans to return to school for the Ph.D. in an effort to pursue her goal to be a tenure-track professor. 


Jerrica Jordan

Jerrica Jordan is a Professor of English at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Southern Illinois University. Her research centers on women writers of color during the American Modernist Period, including Nella Larsen and Ann Petry. She is currently working on an edited collection that uncovers how writers of the Modernist Era anticipated, and in some ways foreshadowed, the current #MeToo movement in their own texts. Her work has been published in Feminist Modernist Studies, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, and Pacific Coast Philology.


Valerie Rose Kelco

Valerie Rose Kelco is a Ph.D. student in the English department at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She received her B.A. and M.A. from the University of North Florida. Her research concentration is African American literature with a focus on southern women’s writing and how it engages with the body and the environment. Recent fellowship opportunities with the National Humanities Center Graduate Student Summer Residency-2019 and the University of Pennsylvania Summer DReAM Lab-2019 (Digital Resources and Methods) provided training in Arc-GIS spatial mapping technology and augmented reality applications that digitally enhance her scholarly work and pedagogy by creating digital open educational resources.


Marina Magloire

Marina Magloire is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Miami. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Duke University. Her current book project explores the influence of Afro-Caribbean spirituality on Black American women writers and performers. Moving from the Caribbean ethnographies of Zora Neale Hurston and Katherine Dunham to the resurgence in Vodou imagery in texts by Audre Lorde and Lucille Clifton, this work argues that, contrary to popular beliefs about the solely liberatory function of African diaspora religions, Afro-Caribbean spirituality has taught Black American feminists to confront the inescapability of alienation, inauthenticity, and privilege. She is also working on a second book project on Afrosurrealism.


Leah A. Milne

Leah A. Milne is Assistant Professor of Multicultural American Literature at University of Indianapolis, where she teaches courses in American and postcolonial literature and directs the English graduate program. She received her doctorate in American literature from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is the author of Novel Subjects: Authorship as Radical Self-care in Multiethnic American Narratives (University of Iowa Press, 2021), which examines scenes of writing race and nationality in contemporary fiction and memoir. Her research focus is primarily on contemporary works in African American and Asian American literature.


Stephen Pasqualina

Stephen Pasqualina is a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he teaches courses on U.S. literature, history, and culture and science, technology, and society. He completed his Ph.D. in the Department of English at the University of Southern California. Much of his research focuses on Zora Neale Hurston’s relationship to transatlantic slavery and its afterlives. Hurston’s work is central to his current book project, which examines the role of technological mediation in the U.S. historical imaginary from the Gilded Age to World War II. Work related to this project has recently appeared in Modernism/modernity, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, and Public Books.


Mary Pattillo

Mary Pattillo is the Harold Washington Professor of Sociology and African American Studies, and Chair of the African American Studies Department at Northwestern University. She holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago. She is the author of Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class (University of Chicago Press, 1999) and Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City (University of Chicago Press, 2007) – that focus on class stratification, public housing, education, crime, urban planning, community organizing, and youth culture in African American neighborhoods in Chicago. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Political & Social Science.


Jimisha Relerford

Jimisha Relerford is a Master Instructor in the Department of English at Howard University, where she teaches first-year composition courses and has served as Director of the Writing Center. She is also in her fourth year of the doctoral program in English at Howard. Her scholarship focuses on African American literature, language, rhetorics, and archives and the intersections thereof. Her dissertation project analyzes humor and satire in the work of African American, Black British, and Caribbean women’s writing from the 20th century through the present.


Sondra Bickham Washington

Sondra Bickham Washington is an Assistant Professor of American Literature at Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University. She holds a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. She specializes in 19th and 20th century African American literature, particularly focusing on literary treatments of Black girlhood and the ways that race, gender, and trauma affect African American female children and adolescent characters. Washington also founded The Black Girlhood Project, a digital humanities resource designed to enhance the emerging interdisciplinary field of Black girlhood studies and to offer scholars and researchers a centralized location for networking and information on Black girls.


Angela Watkins

Angela Watkins is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Iowa. In 2016, she published an article, titled “Restoring Haitian Women’s Voices and Verbalizing Sexual Trauma in Breath, Eyes, Memory,” in the Journal of Haitian Studies. She has two forthcoming articles slated for publication by Cambridge and Routledge, respectively: “Progression or Regression of the Black Race? Nella Larsen’s Critique of Historically Black Colleges and Racial Uplift in Quicksand” and “Water, Water, Everywhere, and Not a Drop to Drink”: Spiritual Renewal Through Destruction in Jewell Parker Rhodes’s Hurricane.”


Ayana K. Weekley

Ayana K. Weekley is an Associate Professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies at Grand Valley State University. She holds a Ph.D. in Feminist Studies from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Her research and teaching interests include Black Feminist Studies and Feminist Periodical Studies. Her scholarly contributions include: “Black Feminist Thought and the Gender, Women’s, and Feminist PhD: A Roundtable Discussion.” Feminist Formations, 32(2), 1-28; coeditor of Women’s Magazines in Print and New Media (Routledge, 2017); and “Saving Me Through Erasure? Black Women, HIV/AIDS, and Respectability,” in Black Female Sexualities (Routledge, 2015). She also co-leads study abroad trips to South Africa.


Paula White

Paula White is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Languages and Literature at Austin Peay State University. She holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Arkansas. She specializes in African American Literature and Black Feminist Literary Studies, and her research focuses on twentieth century Black women writers in Black, Southern and Queer literatures. At APSU, she teaches English, African American Studies and Women’s and Gender Studies courses. Her forthcoming manuscript tentatively titled, Black Feminism and the New Negro, retraces the origins of Black Feminist Literary Studies to Harlem Renaissance fiction.


Salvador Zárate

Salvator Zárate is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. He holds a Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, San Diego. He spent a year as a UCI Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies and a year as a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of African American Studies before joining the UCI Department of Anthropology. His research examines how racialized and immigrant work forms the backbone of U.S. society, yet the people who do this work are the most vulnerable to exploitation and social exclusion.