Susanna Ashton, professor and chair of the Clemson University Department of English, has earned a fellowship at the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard University. She joins the 2021-2022 group of scholars that Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Director of the Hutchins Center, describes as an “extraordinary cohort.”
“It’s a tremendous honor to have my research recognized and supported in this way. I look forward to learning from a spectacular collection of international scholars.” Ashton said. “As the only scholar from English in this group of Fellows, I am especially excited to see how the analytical tools from my discipline of textual studies and, well, storytelling, will be honed by interacting with researchers in different fields.”
As the W.E.B. Du Bois Fellow in residence for Spring 2022, Ashton will continue her work on A Plausible Man: The life of John Andrew Jackson. A man who escaped slavery in South Carolina, Jackson built a life as an international speaker and author, eventually raising money to buy the plantation on which he was enslaved. Ashton reveals how the story of his life entwines with 19th century luminaries Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
As Ashton explains, aside from his memoir of 1862, The Experiences of a Slave in South Carolina, there has been little attention paid to Jackson. “And yet,” she asserts “his impact was real and covered by hundreds of newspaper articles during his lifetime. There are many documents about his life but my work is also about what is invisible and undocumented. Where do traditional histories fail us? Jackson’s story begins as the portrait of a man but is also about the archive of the marginal, the folklore of the underground, and the truths of the forgotten networks that make up how we see our histories and our communities.”
“We are so proud of Dr. Ashton and delighted that she has received this level of recognition for her scholarship,” said Nicholas Vazsonyi, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities at Clemson University. “It is a significant moment, not just for her, but for the Humanities at Clemson, especially in the area of research on race, which we are now in the process of substantially amplifying with the international search for a Director of the Pan-African Studies program. The visibility and networking opportunities that will result from Dr. Ashton’s time at Harvard are hard to overstate.”
The Hutchins Center for African & African American Research supports work in the history and culture of people of African descent, providing a forum for collaboration and the ongoing exchange of ideas. Founded in 1975, the Hutchins Center is the preeminent research center in the field, sponsoring visiting fellows, publications, research projects, and more initiatives that respond to and inspire interest in established and emerging channels of inquiry in Africa and its diasporas.
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