Africana Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board Weekly Meeting

The Africana Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board is having our weekly meeting in the Max Kade Center at the Department of Africana Studies from 4 to 6 pm on every Friday! Join us if you want to be a part of the conversation that supports our undergraduate population. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Zhangyang Xie at xiezy@sas.upenn.edu.

Africana Studies Undergraduate Research Guide

In collaboration with the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, the Africana Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board wrote this research guide to help students interested in conducting research in Africana Studies.

Africana Studies Undergrad Research Guide

Where to Find Research Opportunities/Fundings (A Preliminary List)

  • CURF Research Directory

Faculty interested in listing new research projects or general calls for research assistance should review the listing instructions here.

There are many opportunities for Penn undergraduates to conduct research in any discipline—regardless of their previous experience. Research positions can be:

  • Volunteer
  • Arranged through work-study
  • Paid — funded directly through a faculty member’s grant or via a program that provides a stipend
  • Conducted for academic credit, or
  • Supported via a grant for which you apply.

Keep in mind that funding options are often specific to particular kinds of research, fields of study, grad year, etc.  In addition, most (but not all) CURF funding is reserved for research conducted under the mentorship of a Penn faculty member.

Use the list below to identify research programs, grants and opportunities at Penn, elsewhere in the US and abroad.  While CURF strives to maintain a thorough and up-to-date website, these listings are not comprehensive and students are encouraged to conduct their own funding searches.

CURF Research Peer Advisors (RPAs) are undergraduates from a variety of research fields who can help Penn students get started in research. RPAs are available for consultation via email, and at CURF outreach events such as Preceptorials, Research Open Houses, Research Symposia, and Workshops. RPAs can help you explore research opportunities, identify potential faculty mentors, and apply for research grants.

Each September, all 1st- and 2nd-year students PLUS 3rd-year transfers will receive an invitation to be formally matched with a Research Peer Advisor.  However, undergraduates are always welcome to contact RPAs individually outside of the official matching process.

Where to Find Primary Sources (A Preliminary List)

  • Philadelphia Area Archival Research Portal

This Philadelphia Area Archival Research Portal (PAARP), formerly the PACSCL Finding Aids Site, provides access to descriptions of more than 5,000 collections from over 200 regional institutions documenting the region’s vital role in our collective history, from colonization to the present day, from the everyday citizen to some of America’s best known thinkers and celebrated citizens. On this site, researchers will find catalog descriptions, or “finding aids,” to collections relating to local, national, and world history; the natural and social sciences; medicine; literature; religion; art and architecture; business and industry; the performing arts; and other topics.

  • University Archives and Records Center

The University Archives strives to ensure the timeless preservation of historically significant documents and other materials that reflect the University’s origins and development and the activities and achievements of its officers, staff, faculty, students, alumni, and benefactors. The Archives is the permanent repository for historically significant materials. The university archives has a particularly strong collection of Sadie and Raymond Alexander papers.

  • Penn Libraries– Africana Studies Collection

Over the past 20 years the Library has purchased monographs relating to Africana Studies at a high level to support consistently high interest and growing curricular needs. Aside from scholarly books, novels, genre fiction, poetry and play scripts are all well represented. Nonetheless, BorrowDirect access to the collections of Ivy Plus Libraries serves the essential purposes of filling gaps in our collections and providing second copies when Penn’s are unavailable. Aside from books, the Library has a robust collection of electronic primary and secondary source resources to support research about the African diaspora during all time periods and in all locations.  The video collection in DVD and streaming formats is another strength. At the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, the Joanna Banks Collection of African American Books, Marian Anderson Collection, Ashley Bryan Archive, Arthur Huff Fauset Collection, Freedoms Foundation Political Pamphlet and Periodical Collection, James DePriest Papers, and James G. Spady Papers are among the university’s growing collections in Africana Studies.

  • Black Archives

Founded in 2015, by Renata Cherlise, Black Archives is a multimedia platform that brings a spotlight to the Black experience. Through an evolving visual exploration, Black Archives provides a dynamic accessibility to a Black past, present, and future.

Going beyond the norm, its lens examines the nuance of Black life: alive and ever-vibrant to both the everyday and iconic — providing insight and inspiration to those seeking to understand the legacies that preceded their own.

  • Anti-Eviction Mapping Project

The Anti-Eviction Mapping Project is a data-visualization, critical cartography, and multimedia storytelling collective documenting dispossession and resistance upon gentrifying landscapes. Primarily working in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and New York City, we are all volunteers producing digital maps, software and tools, narrative multimedia work, murals, reports, and community events. Working with a number of community partners and in solidarity with housing movements globally, we study and visualize entanglements of racial capitalism, technocapitalism, and political economy, while providing tools for resistance. Our narrative oral history and video work centers the displacement of people and complex social worlds, but also modes of resistance. Maintaining antiracist and feminist analyses as well as decolonial methodology, the project creates tools and disseminates data contributing to collective resistance and movement building.

  • All That Philly Jazz

All That Philly Jazz has mapped Philly’s lost jazz shrines from A to Z, from the Aqua Lounge to Zanzibar Blue. From Dizzy Gillespie at the Downbeat to The Roots mural on South Street, we are documenting jazz-related cultural assets and historic resources.”

  • A People’s Archive of Police Violence

A People’s Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland collects, preserves, and shares the stories, memories, and accounts of police violence as experienced or observed by Cleveland citizens. Organized in Summer 2015 by Cleveland residents and professional archivists from across the U.S., the archive hopes to provide the Cleveland community–especially survivors of police violence and the families of victims– a safe and secure space to share any testimony, documents, or accounts that narrate or reflect on encounters or effects of police violence in their lives and communities.

  • 3D Black Boston

3D Black Boston is a project that uses immersive technologies to create virtual reality experiences of nineteenth-century African American heritage sites on Beacon Hill. We will be posting various updates related to the project while it is being developed. Currently, the organization is working on spaces related to David Walker, the radical Black abolitionist and author of Walker’s Appeal (1829).

  • SNCC Digital Gateway: Learn from the Past, Organize for the Future, Make Democracy Work

Made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the SNCC Digital Gateway: Learn from the Past, Organize for the Future, Make Democracy Work is a collaborative project of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC—pronounced “Snick”) Legacy Project, Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, and Duke University Libraries.

This documentary website tells the story of how young activists in SNCC united with local people in the Deep South to build a grassroots movement for change that empowered the Black community and transformed the nation. The SNCC Digital Gateway portrays how SNCC, alongside thousands of local Black residents, worked for Black people to take control of their political and economic lives. It also unveils the inner workings of SNCC as an organization, examining how it coordinated sit-ins and freedom schools, voter registration and economic cooperatives, anti-draft protests and international solidarity struggles.

SNCC organizers themselves shaped the vision and framework of the SNCC Digital Gatewaywebsite. They worked collaboratively with historians of the Movement, archivists, and students to weave together grassroots stories, digitized primary source materials held at repositories across the country, and new multi-media productions to bring this history to life for a new generation.

  • Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage

Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage: Looking for Landmarks from the Movement is an ongoing project to research and document the historic context for the African American Civil Rights movement in Baltimore. We are writing a National Register of Historic Places Multiple Property Documentation Form that documents the significance of the region’s Civil Rights history and supports the designation and preservation of local landmarks that tell the story of the movement.

Baltimore Heritage concluded this project in the spring of 2019 with the submission of the Multiple Property Documentation Form to the Maryland Historical Trust for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. While this website is not being regularly updated, we still welcome your feedback, suggestions, and corrections as we maintain this website as an educational resource for local historians, educators, and residents interested in the history of Baltimore’s civil rights movement

  • Black Belt Brooklyn

Black Belt Brooklyn aims to illustrate and historicize Black practices of vitality, mutual-aid, and institution building during a period of widespread neglect by formal political institutions at every level. Using Black spatial production (or an emplaced “making a way out of no way”) Black residents produce place counter to official geographies and understandings of urban space that draws from practices of Black resistance, community organizing, and institution building. Thus, Black Belt Brooklyn serves as a tool in a “technology of recovery,” (Gallon 2016) excavating time-space activities, events, and societies.

  • Caribbean Memory Project

The Caribbean Memory Project (CMP) is the Caribbean’s first crowd-sourced cultural heritage research platform. It is designed to activate and engage the memory of cultural heritage among a mixed audience and to aid in counteracting the effects of erasure and forgetting occurring in a growing number of contemporary Caribbean communities. The CMP is motivated by enduring questions of citizenship and its related responsibilities—to a family, a community, a country—which are central to the conceptualization and sustainable enactment of Caribbean identity.  The CMP’s foundational questions include:

  • What can Caribbean people can do with their heritage, and the knowledge, texts, locations, and other tangible objects they produce as a consequence of belonging?
  • How does technology—digitization, in particular—enable a more robust interpretation, understanding, and articulation of Caribbean identity for communities that have not traditionally used technology for the purpose of self-definition?
  • How do these communities integrate digital technology with other forms in their day to day lives?
  • How does technology facilitate outreach in local, national, regional, and international contexts?
  • How does mobile technology provide access and materials to communities that lack the resources for digitization and distribution?
  • What are the greatest impediments to the exploration of heritage and other modes in digital contexts, particularly with regard to the intersections of rhetoric with related arts (aesthetics, poetics, philosophy, and politics), as well as their differences?

Since launching The CMP in 2014, we have identified, acquired, processed, and interacted with various archives via our Mobile Archiving Service. We have also devised a comprehensive, long-term strategy in education, entrepreneurship, and social engagement (described in our Phase II and III objectives) for addressing the possibilities, implications, and material effects of heritage and citizenship.

The CMP functions as a public repository for texts—family archives, collections, found/discarded materials, and public databases—that begins to illustrate the range of documentary activity produced by (and about) Caribbean people and their descendants. Participants and the general public have direct and open access to this heritage database that may  be used for reflection, education, and research into the social histories of indigenous, native, and naturalized communities by local, regional, and transnational parties.

Please contact Zhangyang Xie at xiezy@sas.upenn.edu if you have any questions or suggestions.