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Fellowship Created for Studying History of Slavery in Washington, D.C.

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Mia Owens with Ohio resident working at a computer
Day of Service in Rendville, Ohio, with the Rendville Historic Preservation Society and the Southeast Ohio History Center. Mia Owens works with a Rendville resident to digitize documents and photographs. Credit: Ohio History Service Corps.

For American University graduate student Mia Owens, engaging in public history projects is a way to collaborate with and be of service to people. Owens is the inaugural fellow for a new, two-year Public History Graduate Fellowship in the History of Slavery and Its Legacies in Washington, D.C. The fellowship is a partnership between The White House Historical Association and AU’s Antiracist Research & Policy Center. The Antiracism Center is a collaboration between the School of International Service and the College of Arts and Sciences.

Owens, who is pursuing a master’s in public history in AU’s Public History Program, will spend two academic years researching and developing interpretive material around the history and legacy of slavery throughout the city, and researching and writing for the association’s Slavery in the President’s Neighborhood initiative. The first year of the fellowship will be spent under the supervision of the White House Historical Association, while the second year will be spent in residence at the Antiracism Center.

“The creation of this fellowship is an important opportunity to deepen our understanding of slavery’s enduring legacy in our nation’s capital,” said Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association. “The protests that have erupted this summer over issues of racial injustice are a stark reminder of how important this work is. We’re thrilled that Mia will join us as the first fellow to take on this historically vital work.”

Owens is a graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and most recently served as an AmeriCorps Local History member for the Ohio History Service Corps. Previously, as part of her undergraduate studies, Owens conducted oral history research in the predominantly African American Rosedale neighborhood of Homewood, Alabama, documenting stories and artifacts from a community deeply connected to the Civil Rights Movement.

“This is an exciting time to be involved in public history, and I’m looking forward to working with The White House Historical Association, and getting to know the community at AU and exploring how public history can be part of the work at AU around diversity and inclusion,” Owens said.

During the 2020-21 academic year, Owens will conduct research and create public-facing content and be assigned a regular mentor from The David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History at Decatur House. The following year, she will work with the Antiracism Center under the direction of Managing Director Christine Platt and a faculty supervisor. Fellowship duties will focus on historical research, interpretation, and public engagement in connection with the history and influence of slavery at AU, applying skills learned from the WHHA and building upon work done by the Working Group on the Influence of Slavery at American University.

“The Antiracist Research and Policy Center welcomes Mia and is excited to partner with WHHA on this inaugural fellowship that will examine the history and lasting implications of slavery in Washington, D.C,” Platt said. “Mia’s research will help fill the gaps in historical knowledge and the legacies for AU’s campus and the surrounding neighborhoods.”