UMBC humanities faculty receive NEH fellowships for research into “the why and how of our past”

Published: Feb 15, 2023

A postcard from the 1950s showing color and black and white photos of African American families at the beach.
Clockwise from upper left corner: Chicken Bone Beach, Atlantic City, NJ, circa 1950s (Source: Elizabeth Patton’s family photos); page from 1949 Negro Motorist Green Book (Image courtesy of the New York Public Library); King’s Lodge postcard, front and back (Source: Elizabeth Patton’s personal collection).

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced that George Derek Musgrove ‘97, associate professor of history, and Elizabeth Patton, associate professor of media and communication studies, have received the highly competitive 2023 NEH fellowship. 

Only 70 scholars out of 1,029 applicants nationwide received the coveted fellowship this year. The one-year award supports individual scholars pursuing projects that embody exceptional humanistic research, rigorous analysis, and clear writing. Each scholar will receive $60,000 to support a current book project. Musgrove and Patton have received multiple fellowships supporting their prior and current work, affirming the importance of their scholarship. 

Black political and cultural mobilizations

Musgrove, a 2022 Andrew Carnegie fellow, will be working on “We must take to the streets again:” The Black Power Resurgence in Conservative America, 1980–1997. The book aims to provide an in-depth history of the years between the Civil Rights movement and today’s Black Lives Matter movement. This new work will also further Musgrove’s highly acclaimed research on African American history in the nation’s capital, completed over the past decade.

A person wearing a light blue dress shirt (NEH Fellowship recipient) stands in front of a brick building with a tree in the background.
Derek Musgrove. (Marlayna Demond ’11/UMBC)

“The NEH Fellowship is one of the most prestigious awards granted in the humanities and I am honored that the selection committee deemed my forthcoming project worthy of support,” shares Musgrove. “That I was selected is a testament to my colleagues in the history department and Rachel Brubaker, who encouraged me to apply and shared essential feedback. UMBC’s generous, collaborative culture allows those of us who are lucky enough to work here to do amazing things.”

UMBC’s Dresher Center for the Humanities provides key support to faculty engaging in major scholarly and public projects. Rachel Brubaker, director of program administration at the Dresher Center, works with faculty one on one to identify and successfully apply for research funding.

After receiving the Carnegie Fellowship, Musgrove shared that the support his scholarship has garnered is “a powerful endorsement of the importance of exploring the Black political and cultural mobilizations of the 1980s and ‘90s.” He noted, “We continue to live in the world those activists helped make and to fight the battles that those activists fought.”

Black leisure and tourism

Patton, who was also a 2022 NEH summer fellow, will advance research for her forthcoming book Representation as a Form of Resistance: Documenting African American Spaces of Leisure during the Jim Crow Era. The book will examine the history of Black leisure and tourism in the U.S. through the perspective of photography and home movies. She seeks to put into context lingering forms of racism that still affect Black tourism on platforms like Airbnb.

A person with dark brown wavy hair wearing a emerald blouse and glasses (NEH Fellowship recipient) stands outside with buildings in the background.
Elizabeth Patton. (Marlayna Demond ’11/UMBC)

The 2023 NEH award will further Patton’s archival research, begun in 2022 with combined funding from Duke University’s John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African American History and Culture, and UMBC’s CAHSS Research Fund.

“I have found hundreds of examples of spaces where there is a history of people of color using those spaces, desegregating those spaces, or creating their own spaces for leisure and travel,” Patton said, after receiving her 2022 NEH summer fellowship. “These rich data sources will help me tell the invisible history of African American leisure through historical methods, discourse analysis, semiotics, and oral history.”

Humanities at work

Preminda Jacob, associate professor of visual arts and associate dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is thrilled the NEH continues to support UMBC’s leading humanities research. “Humanities scholarship at UMBC pursues the why and how of our past, present, and future with painstaking rigor,” says Jacob. “The NEH fellowship acknowledges our faculty’s innovative and relentless pursuit of answers to these questions.”

Musgrove and Patton join several previous UMBC NEH Fellows. A few of the university’s prior recipients include Anne Sarah Rubin, professor of history; Susan McDonough, associate professor of history; and Whitney Schwab, associate professor of philosophy.

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