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UTHC Alumni Spotlight

Brandon WinfordHow does business intersect with civil rights? Former UT Humanities Center Fellow and Assistant Professor of History Brandon Winford has published a groundbreaking study of black banking that shows how economics and freedom intertwine.

Winford’s new book, John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights, focuses on John Hervery Wheeler, a bank president and civil rights lawyer from North Carolina who was appointed to high-ranking positions by John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and played a vital role in fighting for full citizenship and expanding southern economic equality for African Americans. Published by the University Press of Kentucky, Winford’s study explores the life of this important but often overlooked titan of the 20th-century financial community and his impact on the black freedom struggle. 

For his research, Professor Winford consulted previously unexamined sources from the John Hervey Wheeler Collection at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library. He noted that as a 2016 UT Humanities Center Faculty Fellow, he had time and resources to complete the project, including funding to help cover publishing costs such as indexing and image copyrights for over 30 photographs.

“I had the opportunity to work on my book daily without the distractions that come with the normal responsibilities of being a faculty member,” Winford observed. He added that the most difficult part of writing the historical study was to transform it into an engaging narrative about Wheeler’s life. “I could come to work at the Humanities Center ready to think, write, reflect, brainstorm, and analyze—truly invest my time and energy in the historical process and everything it entails.”

Charles W. McKinney Jr., Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of History at Rhodes College, writes that Winford’s book is “a much-needed and insightful contribution to the historiography of the black freedom struggle.” The book is now available for preorder and will be officially released December 9th, 2019.

Katie BurnettWhat is the relationship between Dixie and the world? Former UTHC graduate student fellow Katie Burnett has taken this question into a new job and her ongoing research projects.

Dr. Burnett, a UTHC Graduate Fellow in 2012-2013, used her time at the Center to work on her dissertation, “The Dixie Plantation State: Antebellum Fiction and Global Capitalism.” She defended the dissertation in the Department of English and graduated from UT in 2013, and then won a tenure-track job at Fisk University in Nashville, TN, where she is now Assistant Professor in the English Department and Coordinator of the Women and Gender Studies Program.

In joining the faculty at Fisk, Burnett has returned to her hometown, where she attended the nearby Martin Luther King High School. “I remain at Fisk because I love it here,” she said. “My students are hands down the best students and at any point, I can go into my composition classes and my students are always on it.”

Burnett credits her time at the Humanities Center for allowing her to complete her dissertation project, which she is now revisiting as the basis of a book manuscript on antebellum fiction. The broad and helpful feedback and collaboration with other fellows that she enjoyed while a fellow at the UTHC helped her to see her research in an increasingly interdisciplinary light. “My work often crosses fields (history, literary form, American studies),” she noted. “My interactions with the fellows at the Center revealed that the cross-disciplinary connections in my scholarship could build upon and serve as a foundation for work in other fields, thus making my work that much more valuable in a variety of different contexts.”

This spirit of collaboration characterizes the work at the Humanities Center and has implications for work across the humanities. For Burnett, “drawing connections between fields, nations, geographies and cultures strengthens our work as academics.”

You can learn more about Katie and her work on her faculty web page, as well as in a web interview as part of an ongoing “Faces of Fisk” series.

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