Dr. Bobby Smith II, Professor - Department of African American Studies, awarded National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship for 2021


A University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor of African American studies, Bobby Smith II – have been awarded National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowships.

“Congratulations to professors Ledesma and Smith on their selection for these highly competitive, prestigious fellowships,” Chancellor Robert J. Jones said. “It’s gratifying to have their achievements recognized on the national level, and we’re proud to have these exceptional scholars on our campus.”

The NEH awarded $32.8 million in grants for 213 humanities projects across the nation, the organization announced Wednesday. The fellowship program supports advanced research in the humanities, and the recipients produce articles, books, digital materials or other scholarly resources.

The NEH received an average of 1,100 applications per year for the past five rounds of competition, according to the NEH website. The program has a 7% funding ratio over that time, awarding 71 fellowship grants this year totaling $3.9 million.

Smith’s project “Race, Civil Rights, and Food Access in the Mississippi Delta” is the first book to analyze the interaction between oppressive and emancipatory practices of food power, as exercised in the Mississippi Delta from the civil rights era to today. By documenting this dynamic, the book shifts the way we understand civil rights history and current struggles against food disparities in rural Black communities. According to the project description, it offers a new line of inquiry that uncovers a neglected period of the movement when activists expanded the meaning of civil rights to address food as integral to social and economic conditions. This meaning-making process is used as a model by Black communities today that mobilize around the food justice movement. By making these connections, the book shows how current concerns about food disparities in Black communities are rooted in the civil rights struggle and how Black communities work to create solutions to those disparities locally and nationally.

Smith previously received an NEH 2020 Summer Stipend for the project.

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency and one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States. It supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.  

*Editor’s note: A list of the National Endowment for the Humanities grant recipients can be found online.

BY JODI HECKEL  | ARTS AND HUMANITIES EDITOR  | 217-300-2751|DEC 17, 2020 3:00 PM

*NOTE: Sections of this report have been removed for the purpose of highlighting information referring to the professor associated with this academic unit. The full article can be located at https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/942065614