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Spelman College Receives $327,000 Mellon Foundation Grant to Develop Community Archives Through Partnership Between HBCUs and Historic Black Towns Share a Spelman College Press Release

For Immediate Release

Joyce Davis
Spelman College

Spelman College Press ReleaseATLANTA (January 30, 2019) – Spelman College has received a $327,000 grant from the Andrew Mellon Foundation to create community-based archives cultivated through partnerships between historically Black colleges and universities and the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance. The award will support an inaugural summit between six HBCUs and six communities within the HBTSA, a nonprofit organization founded in the spirit of historic and cultural preservation for Black communities.

An 18-month initiative, The HBCU/HBTSA Summit, A Call and Response: Cultivating Partnerships between Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance (HBTSA), includes community historic preservation and geo-mapping projects. The initiative will culminate with students exhibiting their work and project leaders submitting scholarly manuscripts to a leading community engagement journal and proposing conference presentations for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Black Communities Conference in 2020.

"Community-based archives in historic Black towns and settlements are vital to preserving the identities, histories and cultures of marginalized people whose voices have not been well-represented in traditional, mainstream archives,” said Michelle Bachelor Robinson, Ph.D., director of Spelman’s Writing Center and Comprehensive Writing Program, professor of English, and principal investigator of the initiative. “We are excited to launch this collaborative effort between HBCU students, faculty and community leaders to ensure the archival preservation of historic Black towns.”

About the HBCU/HBTSA Summit
The Spelman College HBCU/HBTSA Summit pilots collaborations between Tuskegee, Alabama and Tuskegee University; Grambling, Louisiana and Grambling State University; Mound Bayou, Mississippi and Mississippi Valley State University; Hobson City, Alabama and Spelman College; Prairie View, Texas and Prairie View A&M University; and the community of Independence Heights in Houston, Texas and Texas Southern University.

Thirty-six HBCU students (six from each institution) will receive four days of intensive training during the 30th Annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities (ZORA! Fest) Jan. 30 – Feb. 3 in Hurston’s hometown Eatonville, Florida, the second oldest Black municipality in the United States. The participating Spelman students are sophomores Talia Adderley, Alyna Coleman, Jessica Cooper, Alexis Prescott, Asia Reese and first-year student Jasmine Tabor.

During Zora! Fest, the student participants, selected for their scholarship and leadership, will gain an in-depth understanding of the cultural phenomenon and development of Black towns and settlements, as well as a greater appreciation for the institutions of higher learning that emerged from them.

Whole histories of the dignity, strength and perseverance of black communities can be lost in the absence of determined efforts to record and remember them. We are excited that Spelman women will be part of this important cultural preservation initiative, and grateful for the support of the Mellon Foundation for this teaching and learning opportunity, said Spelman Provost Sharon Davies, who will participate in the Summit panel discussion, “The Unique Experience of an HBCU Education.”

Initiative Goals
The goal of the initiative is to orient students toward the context of community engagement and service learning in an effort to recruit a new generation of activists and preservationists for historically cultural spaces. The six partnerships will allow the civic and academic leaders of HBTSA to mentor HBCU students, thereby forging intergenerational connections with the historical and cultural significance of each community, and fostering shared commitments to the preservation of each community’s archival materials.

In their assigned communities, students will collect oral histories, historic objects, and other artifacts relevant to community genealogy or history. They will prepare the materials for inclusion in the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Spatial Visualization and Mapping Heritage Atlas, a geo-mapping effort that will serve as a repository for community narratives and other audiovisual materials for historic Black towns nationwide. To conclude the project, the students will create a physical exhibition of their work to be displayed and enjoyed in the community. 

About Spelman College 
Founded in 1881, Spelman College is a leading liberal arts college widely recognized as the global leader in the education of women of African descent. Located in Atlanta, the College’s picturesque campus is home to 2,100 students. Spelman is the country's leading producer of Black women who complete Ph.D.s in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The College’s status is confirmed by U.S. News and World Report, which ranked Spelman No. 51 among all liberal arts colleges and No. 1 among historically Black colleges and universities. The Wall Street Journal ranked the College No. 3, nationally, in terms of student satisfaction. Outstanding alumnae include Children’s Defense Fund Founder Marian Wright Edelman, Starbucks Group President and COO Rosalind Brewer, former Acting Surgeon General and Spelman’s first alumna President Audrey Forbes Manley, global bioinformatics geneticist Janina Jeff and authors Pearl Cleage and Tayari Jones. For more information, visit


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