CLA Partners with Howard University and the Project on the History of Black Writing on a $100,000 NEH Grant Print

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FOR A $100,000 NEH GRANT

March 3, 2016

The Howard University Department of English has received a $100,000 HBCU Humanities Initiative grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. These funds will support “Seshat: A Howard University Digital Humanities Initiative,” a year-long project that generates new digital humanities data in African-American literary studies and introduces faculty to digital humanities tools and techniques that enhance teaching and learning in the humanities and beyond.

The project is a collaboration between the Howard University Department of English, the College Language Association (CLA), and the Project on the History of Black Writing (HBW) that fills a void in the digital humanities environment by increasing the number of African-American novels and scholarly articles that are digitized and by improving the quality of humanities teaching and learning through the creation of digital tools that can be used to produce new knowledge. Specifically, the project involves: (1) digitizing select African-American novels and the first fifty years of the College Language Association Journal (CLAJ), which moved to Howard University from Morehouse College in 2014, and (2) redesigning four existing humanities division courses to be offered each semester in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The digitizing aspect of the project is supported by the university’s Digital Howard online repository. Faculty who apply and are selected to participate in the week-long summer workshop will support the course redesign component. Summer workshops will expose Howard faculty to digital humanities tools and sharpen teaching and critical engagement skills in the classroom. Guest faculty for the summer workshops include: Dr. Bryan Carter, University of Arizona; Dr. Corrie Claiborne, Morehouse College; Dr. Maryemma Graham, University of Kansas; Gil Perkins, Words Liive and Howard University; Dr. Kenton Rambsy, University of Texas, Arlington; and Dr. Howard Rambsy, Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

Dana A. Williams, the program’s director, is chair of the Department of English at Howard University and president of CLA through 2016. Under her direction, the project seeks to further advance the field of African-American literary studies in the digital age. “We’re excited about this project—the department, CLA, and HBW. You have three major institutions working together and committed to doing the work of enhancing access to African-American literature and culture,” Williams said. When it came time to name the project, Seshat came to mind immediately.

“A real beauty of being at Howard, particularly with our Africana studies program, which situates classical African civilizations accurately as foundational to all knowledge and knowledge production, is the constant reminder that classical African civilizations have and should always inform our understanding of what we now call ‘the humanities.’” It was during a study abroad trip to Kemet (or Egypt) that she co-directed with Dr. Greg Carr, chair of Afro-American studies, in fact that Williams saw the image of Seshat for the first time. “In classical African mythology,” Williams notes, “Seshat is the goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and writing. Her name means ‘She who scrivens,’ and she is the record keeper and authority in surveying architecture, astronomy, building, and mathematics, among other things. In short, she is the goddess of metadata. How could we not name this project ‘Seshat’?”

For more information about this initiative, contact:
Dr. Dana A. Williams
Chair of the Department of English
(202) 806-6730
[email protected]