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Centenary welcomes new history faculty member

SHREVEPORT, LA — Dr. Jama Grove has joined the Department of History and Political Science at Centenary as assistant professor of history. Grove specializes in United States history, Latin American history, and the history of the U.S. South with a focus on agricultural history and the relationship between race and place.

“Our department is excited to welcome Dr. Grove to campus,” says Dr. Chad Fulwider, chair of the department of history and political science. “Despite the new challenges of this particular Fall term, she radiates energy and accessibility to both our new and returning students. We are glad to have her join our team.”

Grove earned a Ph.D. in history from the University of Arkansas and taught courses in both the Department of History and the African and African American Studies Program at Arkansas during her graduate study. She has also taught history courses for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be here,” says Grove. “I attended Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia as an undergrad, which is strikingly similar to Centenary. Then, I worked in the non-profit sector for years before returning to graduate school. As a result, I wanted to work with students who were interested in both a quality liberal arts education and community service. For someone looking for a college where those values are central, there is no place better than Centenary College.”

Grove’s historical research examines the intersection of American agriculture and race, particularly in the South, and she has presented numerous conference papers and authored an article centered in this area. Her in-progress manuscript, Making Whiteness Pay: Fictions, Farmers, and Fundraising, explores 1920s philanthropic campaigns organized by the Farmers Federation Agricultural Cooperative in Western North Carolina as a lens for uncovering the national culture of white supremacy and the creation of structural racism in the region’s agriculture in the twentieth century.

In 1927, the Farmers’ Federation Agricultural Cooperative in Western North Carolina launched a fundraising organization to solicit funds from wealthy donors, enabling the cooperative to fund large-scale agricultural projects that helped members navigate the dramatic agricultural transformations of the early twentieth century. Grove’s work reveals that the fundraising efforts traded on the region’s relatively new national image as a reservoir of pure Anglo-Saxon stock, promising urban elites that donations to white mountaineers would combat the threat they perceived arising from Eastern European and Catholic immigrants by drawing a previously isolated, but racially pure, population into national life. Within this framework, the Farmers’ Federation boosters erased the area’s substantial African American population and helped create a regional identity that denied black Appalachians’ existence. In fact, as Grove shows, the expensive programs that the co-op created with donated money relied on and exploited African American labor.

“The relationship between philanthropy and agricultural production in the South helps us understand the creation of structural racism during the twentieth century,” explains Grove. “White Appalachian farmers faced enormous economic challenges as methods of production changed during the twentieth century. Remaining on the land or leaving the land on their own terms required an enormous degree of work and sacrifice. As a result, these white farm families who navigated these transformations see their survival as the product of their own hard work. Their hard work, however, was regularly and richly subsidized by unearned income that poured into the region as part of an explicit effort to bolster white supremacy.”

During the 2020-2021 academic year, Grove will teach survey courses in United States history along with a course on research methods that will help students build skills for research and publication and a Black Freedom Struggles course.

“I don’t believe that anyone can understand the history of the United States without careful and constant attention to the Black freedom struggle,” explains Grove. “Any US history class must consider the influence of race, but this class will place Black freedom in the forefront. I hope that this first course offering will serve as an opportunity to work with students to determine what types of classes and what areas of interest they would like to see on the schedule in later semesters.”

Several new faculty members joined Centenary this fall, and the College will be profiling them during the month of September.

 

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