Alumnae Fellowship funds research exploring activism by and for black girls

From the Civil Rights Movement to Black Lives Matter, black girls have been unsung heroes in the fight for African-American equality in the United States. Michelle Taylor Watts ’94 is working to change that. With a 1905 Fellowship from the Alumnae Association, she has launched a research project, “Black Girl Soldier: The Radical Lives of Black Girls in the African-American Liberation Movement.”

Watts will delve into literary and cultural representations of black girls and civil engagement, continuing on her study of black women in 19th-century African-American women’s literature. She will also interview Deborah Northcross ’73, who was a plaintiff in an early school-desegregation case, Northcross v. Board of Education, Memphis City Schools. Watts will produce materials to both document the past and inspire the future, creating a teacher’s guide for historical novels and a curriculum on social-justice organizing for girls.

“This body of work allows me to merge my scholar side and my practitioner side,” Watts said. “It’s a rich moment in time for those of us who study these issues, and I am so grateful for the support of the Alumnae Association.”

Michelle Taylor Watts ’94

Michelle Taylor Watts ’94

An English and politics double major at Mount Holyoke, Watts went on to earn a doctorate in English, African-American and American literature at Rice University. She currently teaches in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at the University of Cincinnati. She also facilitates youth-development programs in community learning centers, including GRAD Cincinnati, a nonprofit organization providing academic support to underserved students, and is a court-appointed special advocate with the nonprofit organization ProKids.

Thanks to generous gifts from alumnae, the Association is pleased to provide a number of fellowships to support research, travel and study. Learn more about fellowship opportunities here.

—By Anne Pinkerton

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