NEH funding helped Leslie Schwalm write Emancipation’s Diaspora: Race and Reconstruction in the Upper Midwest. Image courtesy of UNC Press.
National Endowment for the Humanities funding has supported Leslie Schwalm’s research on race, slavery, emancipation, and the Civil War, helping her shine new light on American history and bring that history to the broader public. In addition, materials uncovered by Schwalm’s research have become foundational to the Iowa Colored Conventions Project.
NEH research funding has helped Schwalm publish two books. A Hard Fight For We: Women’s Transition From Slavery to Freedom in South Carolina (1997), which won the Willie Lee Rose Prize from the Southern Association of Women’s Historians, explores how enslaved women in the South Carolina Lowcountry managed the violence of war and enslavement while managing their domestic lives. Emancipation’s Diaspora: Race and Reconstruction in the Upper Midwest (2009) explores the effects of Civil War emancipation in an under-studied place and has illuminated African American history in the Upper Midwest region. Of both projects, Schwalm observed that “research takes longer for those of us working on underrepresented people because their archives aren’t located in one place. By affording the time to visit archives, NEH funding is critical to overcoming that challenge.”
While researching Emancipation’s Diaspora, Schwalm undertook a great deal of research on the “Colored Conventions” that took place in the years after the Civil War. That research has found a new home as part of the Iowa Colored Conventions Project, of which Schwalm is co-director. The program is the state satellite of a national initiative aimed at digitizing the history of these conventions and making them accessible to researchers, teachers, students, and others. The Iowa project is digitizing a number of primary sources that Schwalm uncovered, making them accessible to the public, while creating curriculum materials that will make it easier for Iowa teachers to teach the state’s Black history.
Schwalm is currently working on a new research project, exploring the intersection of American medical science, public health policy, and scientific beliefs in racial differences in the years during and after the Civil War. It has also received NEH support.