College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities; Community, Engagement, Belonging and Access; Research

Two English professors receive National Endowment for the Humanities awards


CLEMSON – Clemson University English professors Michael LeMahieu and Rhondda Robinson Thomas will receive support from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the agency’s latest round of grants and fellowships.

LeMahieu has been awarded a $60,000 Fellowship to continue work on his book project “Reconstructing Civil War Memory in American Literature after Brown v. Board of Education.”

Michael LeMahieu
English professor Michael LeMahieu received an NEH Fellowship for a project about Civil War Memory in literature. Image credit: Clemson University Relations

LeMahieu’s book will analyze how, in the wake of the landmark United States Supreme Court desegregation case, leading American authors took up the pen as an instrument of civil rights. His project will examine the work of James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, Langston Hughes, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor and other writers.

Through their literature, these authors countered mythologies surrounding the Civil War, debunked Lost Cause narratives and rewrote cultural legacies.

LeMahieu’s fellowship is part of $14.8 million in grants and fellowships recently announced by The National Endowment for the Humanities, which will fund 253 humanities projects across the country.

“I am very grateful to the NEH for this opportunity to focus on my research and writing,” said LeMahieu, an associate professor. “Now, more than ever, public support for scholarship in the humanities is absolutely critical.”

His research on Civil War memory in literature also earned LeMahieu a 2018 Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies, a private, nonprofit federation of 75 national scholarly organizations, which supports American scholarship across disciplines in the humanities and social sciences.

LeMahieu joined the faculty of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities at Clemson University in 2006 after earning his master’s degree and Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his undergraduate degree in English and Spanish from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Common Heritage grant

Rhondda Robinson Thomas, Calhoun Lemon Professor of Literature, received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant of $11,165 to host a two-day “Documenting Your Roots” event in February 2020.

The grant is part of the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Common Heritage program, which supports community digitization and outreach events aimed at preserving America’s cultural heritage.

Rhondda Thomas
Rhondda Robinson Thomas received an NEH grant to fund a community digitization event. Image credit: Clemson University Relations

“This NEH Common Heritage grant will enable us to provide free digitizing services for African-Americans in local communities to preserve family artifacts for generations to come as well as enhance the Call My Name project’s efforts to tell the complete story of African Americans in Clemson University history,” Thomas said.

The “Documenting Your Roots” project aims to preserve photographs, letters, marriage licenses, newspaper clippings and other printed materials associated with African-American history and culture in local communities.

In the months leading up to the two-day event, a series of programs on campus and in local communities will raise awareness about the digitizing program and best practices for preserving and sharing African-American history.

“Documenting Your Roots” is a collaboration between Thomas’ Call My Name project, the Humanities Hub and Special Collections and Archives at Clemson University; and community partners the Bertha Lee Strickland Cultural Museum, the Clemson Area African American Museum and the Pendleton Foundation for African American History and Culture.

Lee Morrissey, founding director of the Humanities Hub, is a co-investigator for the grant.

Thomas joined the Clemson faculty in 2007 and was named the Lemon Professor of Literature in 2018. She received a Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship for her upcoming “Black Clemson: From Enslavement to Integration” museum exhibition.

Thomas earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland, master’s degrees in literature from the University of New Hampshire and in journalism from the University of Georgia. She received her undergraduate degree in communication/media journalism at Columbia Union College.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency created in 1965. For more information about its programs and a complete list of its latest grant recipients, visit the NEH website.

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