BMRC Fellows at CBMR
The Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC) has announced the 2013 recipients of its Short-Term Fellowships in African-American Studies. This is the fifth year of the BMRC Fellows Program, which provides support for outstanding researchers of all disciplines from across the country. Fellows receive $3,000 per month for one to two months during the summer. The BMRC’s Fellowships are awarded to scholars, independent researchers, and artists who have exhibited excellence in their discipline(s); have a significant body of work characterized by originality; and have demonstrated a need to conduct research in the African-American primary resource collections of the 39 Chicago-area members of the BMRC. The fellowships are made possible by the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The 2013 BMRC Fellows represent a diverse spectrum of research disciplines, including African-American Studies, African Diaspora, English, Sociology, Music/Composition, Music Theory, Social Sciences, and Theatre. As a founding member of the BMRC, the CBMR is pleased that two of the 2013 recipients will be in residence at the CBMR. They are:
Ann Eskridge (Independent Scholar/Writer)
Ms. Eskridge’s project, titled “From Coon to Rag,” is to research the Pekin Theater and the role it played in developing and helping to usher in Chicago’s black Tin Pan Alley. She will research the composers and lyricists who frequented and worked at the saloon and theater. From there she hopes to develop a play and/or novel about Chicago’s early black Tin Pan Alley. In addition to the CBMR’s collections, Eskridge will work in the archives at the DuSable Museum of African American History, Roosevelt University, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Historical Museum, and the Chicago Defender archives.
TsiTsi Jaji (Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania)
Jaji, whose project is titled “Classic Black: Art Songs by Black Composers as Poetry Criticism,” will examine how composers of African heritage (both in the Diaspora and on the continent) have approached setting poetry by black poets to music in the Western art music idioms (see the CBMR Travel-to-the-Collections article in this issue of CBMR Digest for additional information on this project).
Sandra Jordan (independent scholar and genealogist). Through her project “Clifford Jordan’s Jazz Experience: How It Influenced His Contributions to the Jazz World,” Jordan plans to research the early life of tenor saxophonist Clifford Jordan (who is considered to be the founder of the “Chicago Sound), and to document his journey through Chicago’s golden age of jazz.
Debashree Sinha (Ph.D. candidate, Department of English, University of Delhi, India). Ms. Sinha’s project is titled “Lost Poets: Black Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance.” She hopes to document the work of lesser-known poets such as Bessie Calhoun Bird, Pauli Murray, Carrie Williams Clifford, and Mae V. Cowdery. The bulk of her research will be undertaken at the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection (Chicago Public Library’s Woodson Regional Library), the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago Special Collections, Chicago State University, and the DuSable Museum of African American History, though she has already worked in and plans to continue her research in the CBMR’s collections.
The CBMR has hosted nine prior BMRC fellows:
- Mary Barr (scholar and author) used her BMRC fellowship to do research for a book titled Paul Robeson in Evanston.
- Ifa Bayeza (playwright, Chicago, Illinois), who did research in preparation of her musical theater piece “High Jinks” about the founding years of DuSable High School and its annual production festival titled High Jinks.
- Geoffrey Bradfield (Columbia College Chicago Music Department, jazz saxophonist and composer, Chicago, Illinois), who studied the scores of jazz great Melba Liston—whose collection is held by the CBMR Library and Archives—while he composed a new suite for jazz chamber ensemble in honor of Liston.
- Helen Brown (Associate Professor in the Department of Performing and Visual Arts, Purdue University), who researched songs of Margaret Bonds and Langston Hughes in preparation for a larger book project.
- Gianpaolo Chiriacò (University of Salento, Lecce, Italy), researched field hollers as part of a project that addresses the persistence of this archaic vocal form, beyond blues, in contemporary African-American vocal styles.
- Neil Clarke (Brooklyn-based percussionist) conducted research on the history of the African drum in America, with particular focuses on Katherine Dunham’s interest in Africa, how African and African Americans were portrayed at the Century of Progress exhibit at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair, and percussionist Guy Warren in 1950s Chicago. Clarke was a prior winner of a CBMR Travel-to-the-Collections grant.
- Mitsutoshi Inaba (independent scholar), who researched blues musician John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson in preparation for a Williamson biography.
- Marcus Shelby (jazz musician and composer, Oakland, California), who researched Chicago experiences of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in preparation for his jazz oratorio interpreting the life of King.
- Cookie Woolner researched classic blues women in the 1920s and 1930s for her dissertation (University of Michigan).
The BMRC is located at the University of Chicago. For additional information about the organization and the fellowships, please visit the BMRC survey site.