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Professor explores 200 years of African-American history with NEH

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
August 12, 2013

Ronald Johnson, of the Department of History at Texas State University, recently participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute hosted by the Georgia Historical Society (GHS) that explored two centuries of African-American life and culture in Savannah and Georgia's coastal islands.

Through scholarly lectures, site visits, community presentations and guided tours, Johnson, along with 22 other program participants, examined the centrality of place in the African-American experience in Georgia’s lowcountry and the larger Atlantic world.

“I wanted to be part of the GHS/NEH Summer Institute to expand my thinking and to enhance my teaching experience in the contentious areas of race relations and slavery in the United Sates,” said Johnson. “The city of Savannah, the people of the Georgia Lowcountry, and the research materials at the Georgia Historical Society have encouraged me to feature Savannah as a prominent place in my second book, which will examine religion and immigration in the United States during the 19th Century."

Johnson was chosen from more than one hundred applicants for the two-week institute, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and selected as an NEH Summer Institute for 2013 which addressed broad themes of race and slavery in American history by focusing on site-specific experiences of communities in and around Savannah from the late 18th through the early 20th centuries. In addition to lectures from leading academics, participants were taken to Ossabaw and Sapelo Islands, the coastal community of Pin Point, and spent an afternoon at the location of “The Weeping Time,” Savannah’s Ten Broeck Race Course, where one of the largest sales of enslaved persons in U.S. history took place in 1859.

“It is important to bring these professors together to explore the history of the African-American experience and the Gullah-Geechee culture in particular,” said Stan Deaton, senior historian at GHS and program director for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute. “By bringing together experts in the field as well as the descendants and keepers of the Gullah-Geechee traditions, we can open up this part of American history in a very dynamic way, giving each of them the tools necessary to facilitate discussions in their own classrooms.”

For more information, contact Johnson at rj26@txstate.edu.