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Nine Inaugural NC Humanities Fellows Will Explore Global and Local History and Culture

Faces of 9 Fellows

North Carolina Humanities has awarded Fellowships to nine individual faculty and staff at community colleges, colleges, and universities in North Carolina. 

“We are excited to expand our community-based services to individual researchers working in the humanities” said NC Humanities Executive Director Sherry Paula Watkins. “These Fellows are working on diverse and innovative topics that will reach local, state, and international audiences.”

Earlier this year, NC Humanities launched its inaugural Fellowship program for all faculty and staff working at institutes of higher education in North Carolina. The program is designed to allow recipients the opportunity to step away from their busy workloads and complete or further research for up to two consecutive summer months. 

When asked about becoming a NC Humanities Fellow, James Hudson said, “As a faculty member at a minority serving institution, UNC Pembroke, it means a lot to be the recipient of an NC Humanities Fellowship. [This support] will fund research for my book project focused on the petroleum trade and the history of the business, economic, and political relationship between China and the United States.” Hudson concluded, “I hope my work will help attract and recruit more students [to] UNC Pembroke and the community it serves in North Carolina to see the value and importance of a humanities-based education.”

Alan Michael Parker of Davidson College said, “To have my project, ‘One Million Likes: Understanding Cartooning in the Digital Age’, validated by NC Humanities means that I can spend two months writing a book. This [funding] makes all the difference in how I can do my job.”

Fellowship applications for 2025 will be announced later this year at  Organizations interested in learning about NC Humanities’ community-based project grant funding opportunities may visit:

The following individuals received a Fellowship from North Carolina Humanities as of June 2024:

  • Catherine Bowlin
  • Affiliation: Guilford College (Greensboro)
  • Project Title: Southern Women’s Environmental Writing: Article and Essay Collection
  • Project Description: Despite the South’s profound influence on literary studies, few have explored how race, class, and the environment intersect within Southern women’s writing. In response to this gap, this research examines Alice Walker’s 1970 novel, The Third Life of Grange Copeland, focusing on her nuanced portrayals of environment and region and their entanglements with race and class.
  • Fellowship Amount: $8,000

  • Magfirah Dahlan-Taylor
  • Affiliation: Craven Community College (New Bern)
  • Project Title: An Islamic Perspective on Animal Extinction and Food Justice
  • Project Description: The increasing human use of land for agriculture has led to the shrinking of wildlife habitats. The conflict that follows from this spread of agriculture includes the retaliatory killing of wildlife that can lead to the extinction of certain animal species. This work will make the case that the concept of Islamic food justice can be useful in helping us to think through the possibility of peaceful interspecies co-existence and will contribute to the current discourse not only by extending the discussion to include animals but also by grounding the concept of food justice in a religious approach that draws from Islamic teachings and traditions.
  • Fellowship Amount:$8,000

  • Meg Day
  • Affiliation: North Carolina State University (Raleigh)
  • Project Title: The Invention of Silence: Remaking our Understanding of Sound Through Deaf Poetics
  • Project Description: Poetry, as a genre, is often defined by the way it employs musicality; for this and other reasons, Deaf literature—made in American Sign Language or written in English—is a unique subset of American poetics. By challenging twentieth and twenty-first century American poetics, this project will interrogate how hearing poets writing in English use sound, meter, white space, and caesura in ways that are already in conversation with Deaf poetics and can be analyzed and enriched alongside a more inclusive American poetics.
  • Fellowship Amount: $8,000

  • Emek Ergun
  • Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte)
  • Project Title: Trans Stories Crossing Borders: How to Grow Together in Translation?
  • Project Description: This project will involve translating Canadian trans writer and artist of color Vivek Shraya’s best-selling non-fiction book, I’m Afraid of Men into Turkish to further facilitate in the circulation of marginalized individual’s stories across languages and help build bridges among social justice agents. Providing a powerful confrontation with toxic masculinity from the lived perspective of a trans woman of color, I’m Afraid of Men challenges gender norms and invites readers to reimagine gender as a diverse, inclusive, and safe spectrum of existence.
  • Fellowship Amount: $4,000

  • Peter J. Ferdinando
  • Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Charlotte)
  • Project Title: Rich from the Sea: Indigenous Wrecking and Maritime Trade in the Atlantic World
  • Project Description: This interdisciplinary work uses Spanish and English documents and archaeological data to examine how Florida’s Atlantic coast Native Americans, including the Ais and Tequesta, adapted their maritime skills to take advantage of European ships dashed on the reefs in the 1500s and 1600s. This work counters the view that the colonial world was a place of vanishing indigenous agency by situating active Native American economic engagement with the Atlantic World. Within this work, chapters will review and examine pre-contact maritime economy, how they recovered everything from clothes to silver coins, prepared and modified items to meet their needs, and how they distributed items to other Native Americans and to European.
  • Fellowship Amount: $8,000

  • Thomas Hansell
  • Affiliation: Appalachian State University (Boone)
  • Project Title: El Corazón del Árbol de Navidad (The Heart of the Christmas Tree)
  • Project Description: This work will research the increasing influence of the Christmas Tree industry in North Carolina’s High Country and examine how this relatively new industry is shaping the region’s agriculture, labor, and culture(s). Through archival research, reading, and oral history interviews, this project will explore the transition from farming tobacco to growing Christmas trees, the move to temporary agricultural workers, and how these changes have influenced cultural identity in these Appalachian communities. This research will provide the foundation for a future public television documentary, educational materials, and community outreach efforts.
  • Fellowship Amount: $8,000

  • James Hudson
  • Affiliation: University of North Carolina at Pembroke (Pembroke)
  • Project Title: The China-U.S. Relationship and the Oil Trade during the Early 20th Century
  • Project Description: Focusing on the history of the export of refined petroleum from the United States to China, this research focuses on three key areas: economics, business, and diplomacy. The Standard Oil Company of New York, a subsidiary company of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, was one of the first global companies to ship kerosene to China to be used as fuel for gas lamps and provide household illumination. Following a series of treaties after the first and second Opium Wars (1839-1842, 1856-1860), western countries established almost total control over production marketing, sales, and distribution of their products. But as kerosene became increasingly popular in China, Standard Oil relied more upon local Chinese merchants and agents to sell their products. This work will enable readers to learn when and how the United States first established trade relations with China and how the Standard Oil Company of New York was one of the first major global corporations that facilitated this colonial encounter.
  • Fellowship Amount: $8,000

  • Scotti Norman
  • Affiliation: Warren Wilson College (Swannanoa)
  • Project Title: Boyd Cabin: Freedom and Family in 19th and 20th Century Western North Carolina
  • Project Description: This project will include the excavation of the homestead, oral history collection from descendants and community neighbors, and the drafting of an archaeological report. In 1874, Henry Ervin and Emeline Boyd bought 50 acres of land and constructed a cabin near Big Sandy Mush Creek. Ervin, Emeline, and their twelve children resided in the house, maintaining ownership of the property until 1971 when Wickes Boyd (grandson of Ervin Boyd) sold the land to the family of the current landowner. With such an extensive occupational history, archaeological investigation at Boyd Cabin allows a longitudinal study of African American family life in Western North Carolina throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1877) and Civil Rights Era (1954-1968). As Black life is historically understudied in the Appalachian region, this study takes an intersectional approach to counter Appalachian narratives centered on poor White homesteaders. 
  • Fellowship Amount: $8,000

  • Alan Michael Parker
  • Affiliation: Davidson College (Davidson)
  • Project Title: One Million Likes: Understanding Cartoons in a Digital Age
  • Project Description: Working with cartoon history—from The Yellow Kid in 1895 to present-day memes—this work will consider the ubiquity of the single-panel cartoon, of which The Far Side is probably the best-known contemporary example. With this easy-to-read handbook, appealing to art lovers, cartoon lovers, students and teachers, this work will explore what the Internet does for and to cartoons. Cartoons have become social practice and cultural capital. How we encounter and process a cartoon on the Internet alters what a cartoon is, and does so differently in print culture, on our phones, and in the media.
  • Fellowship Amount: $8,000

About North Carolina Humanities: Through public humanities programs and grantmaking, North Carolina Humanities connects North Carolinians with cultural experiences that spur dialogue, deepen human connections, and inspire community. North Carolina Humanities is a statewide nonprofit and affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. To learn more, visit

NC Humanities Press Contact: Melanie Moore Richeson; (704) 687-1520;