Miller Center

Miller Center National Fellowship

Beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year, the National Fellowship Program, a longstanding initiative of the Miller Center, will fall under the leadership of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation at U.Va.. The Jefferson Scholars Foundation, created in 1980, currently offers the premier graduate fellowship and undergraduate scholarship at the University. To learn more about the National Fellows Program, including how to apply, click here.

Meet The Fellows

Nancy A. Banks - History, Columbia University

Project: The Struggle over Affirmative Action in the New York City Building Trades, 1961–1976

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Fellowship year: 2004

Mentor: Thomas Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania

Nancy Banks is the Dean of Students at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.

While much scholarly work has been devoted to federal civil rights policy in the 1960s – including several studies on the growing commitment by the civil rights movement and the federal government in that decade to Affirmative Action – Banks believed there had been scant attention paid to Affirmative Action as it relates to the building trades unions, nor to the bitter and lengthy conflicts between civil rights activists, minority workers, and union members. Drawing upon a number of sources – including government documents and court records; the correspondence of political leaders, union officials, and civil rights organizations; and personal interviews with workers, politicians, and labor activists – Banks dissertation explored how Affirmative Action conflicts played out in New York City between 1961 and 1976, and analyzed the impact that they had on the development, implementation, and evolution of the nation's union-targeted affirmative action policies.


Anthony Chen - Sociology, University of California - Berkeley

Project: From Fair Employment to Equal Opportunity and Beyond: Race, Liberalism, and the Politics of the New Deal Order, 1941–1971

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Anthony S. Chen is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of Undergraduate Studies at Northwestern University.

Previously, Chen was Assistant Professor of Sociology and Public Policy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. In addition to holding appointments in the Department of Sociology and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, he was also a Faculty Associate in the Program in American Cultures. From 2005 to 2007, he held the position of Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco. Chen's book, The Fifth Freedom (Princeton, 2009), won the President's Book Award from the Social Science History Association. Chen received his B.A. from Rice University 1994 and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2002.

Selected Recent Publications

The Fifth Freedom: Jobs, Politics, and Civil Rights in the United States, 1941-1972. (Princeton University Press, 2009)

Political Parties and the Sociological Imagination: Past, Present, and Future Directions.” with Stephanie L. Mudge. Annual Review of Sociology 40 (2014): 305-330.


Merlin Chowkwanyun - History and Public Health, University of Pennsylvania

Project: The Dilemmas of 'Community Health': 1945-2000

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Merlin Chowkwanyun is Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and a member of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health.

Chowkwanyun’s work centers on three themes: the history of public health and health policy; racial inequality; and social movements. He is working on a book examining the development of post-WWII medical care and environmental health hazards in four regions (Los Angeles, Cleveland, Central Appalachia, and New York) and another about political unrest at medical schools and neighborhood health activism during the 1960s and 1970s. With Adolph Reed, he is writing an essay collection that questions the dominant theoretical assumptions and frames in disparities research (under contract with the University of California Press). With the Center for Public Integrity, he is part of a group of environmental health journalists and historians on a database featuring millions of previously unseen corporate documents that have emerged in recent environmental health lawsuits. He teaches courses on health advocacy and mixed methods.

Selected Recent Publications

"Q&A with Pau Gasol: The NBA All-Star's Health Advocacy Off-the-Court," Culture of Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, April 20, 2015.

"Grassroots Isn't Always Best." Boston Review, February 23, 2015.

"We keep pledging to study the cause of riots like Ferguson’s. And we keep ignoring the lessons." The Washington Post, August 18, 2014.

"Training Historians and the Dual Degree." Chronicle of Higher Education, January 28, 2014.


Sarah Coleman - History, Princeton University

Project: Redefining American: The Shifting Politics of Immigration Policy at the End of the 20th Century

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Sarah Coleman’s dissertation “Redefining American: The Shifting Politics of Immigration Policy at the End of the 20th Century,” explores how politicians, activists, citizens and the courts competed to define the rights of immigrant persons in the U.S. who did not have American citizenship status in the last quarter of the twentieth-century. With the passage of the landmark Hart-Celler Act in 1965, the United States entered a new era of immigration.  This period of massive immigration led to a fierce struggle, which has been at the heart of contemporary American political history, between activists who fought to ensure rights and benefits for these newcomers and those who opposed open borders and sought to limit the rights of immigrants.

Battles over education, health, welfare, and civil liberties were deeply influenced by this influx of immigration.  This phase in the longer struggle over the rights of immigrants began in the mid-1970s when a network of liberal activists, who had roots in the civil rights movement, successfully fought in the courts to expand the rights of non-citizens to include protection from workplace discrimination, the benefits of the welfare state, and the right to education and other social services. Coleman’s dissertation then looks at the politics of immigration policy that followed these revolutionary court decisions through to the early twenty first century.  In doing so, she traces the development of a movement, within both political parties, to limit the expansion of these rights.  She focuses on some of their success but also on the challenges and obstacles that they have encountered in rolling back the changes that took place since 1965.  

Selected Recent Publications

"Sorry, Trump. Ike's shameful program failed." CNN, November 12, 2015.


Joseph Crespino - History, Stanford University

Project: Strategic Accommodation: Civil Rights Opponents in Mississippi and their Impact on American Racial Politics, 1953–1972

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Joseph Crespino is Professor of History at Emory University.

Crespino's Research considers white Southerners more directly in the context of the emerging conservative politics of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s to reflect the complicated role that race has played in the emergence of modern conservatism.

Crespino's dissertation, "Strategic Accommodation: Civil Rights Opponents in Mississippi and their Impact on American Racial Politics, 1953–1972," won the 2003 Dissertation Award from the Jepson School of Leadership at the University of Richmond. It examined the impact of racial desegregation on political culture in the American South by providing a case study of resistance and accommodation to civil rights reform in Mississippi's white community. His project revealed how key policy makers along with local economic elites led an accommodation to racial change that accepted token forms of desegregation in ways that preserved racial and economic privilege and forestalled further civil rights reform.

Selected Recent Publications

Strom Thurmond's America (Hill and Wang, 2012)


Michele Davis Jones - Political Science, University of Virginia

Project: Beyond Redistricting: How the Voting Rights Act Has Transformed Politics in a Southern City

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Fellowship year: 2003

Mentor: Clarence Stone, University of Maryland

Jones wrote her dissertation on how the Voting Rights Act generated an enormous amount of scholarship, while considering the empirical consequences of the act by looking at its impact on the descriptive and substantive representation of minorities. Jones stated that it is unclear if minorities actually benefited from the increased number of minority representatives, while additionally continuing the effort to assess the question of descriptive versus substantive representation. Her dissertation looked at the politics of a Southern city before and after it was forced to adopt majority-minority districts.


Lily Geismer - History, University of Michigan

Project: Don't Blame Us: Grassroots Liberalism in Massachusetts, 1960-1990

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Fellowship year: 2010

Mentor: Nancy Maclean, Duke University

Lily Geismer is Assistant Professor of History at Claremont McKenna College.

Geismer's teaching and research focuses on the intersections of political realignment, public policy, grassroots social movements and metropolitan history since World War II. Her first book Don’t Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party will be released in December 2014. She is currently beginning work on a new project that will examine the privatization of public policy, and the increasing promotion of market-based and individualist ideology to address social inequality by both political parties since the 1960s.

Geismer's dissertation recasted the conventional narratives of liberalism, civil rights, suburban politics, and electoral realignment. Most accounts of postwar suburban politics have focused primarily on Republican mobilization and fail to acknowledge that during the last half-century the Democratic Party has also become primarily suburban-centered in both base and outlook. Geismer's community study explored how suburban liberals shaped the social and political landscape in the Bay State and the nation in both progressive and problematic ways. Throughout the postwar period, grassroots liberal activists in Massachusetts proved particularly effective at working within the established channels of government to achieve the passage of laws that aligned with their suburban-centered vision of democracy and fairness. Many of these policies, nevertheless, provided individualist solutions to structural problems that often constrained more than enabled the achievement of spatial and racial equality. Tracing the evolution of this activism and ideology through the overlapping arenas of civil rights, housing, education, growth and development, environmentalism, feminism and antiwar activism, her dissertation revealed how Massachusetts has been able to preserve both its liberal reputation and racially and spatially segregated landscape. In doing so, her project aimed to prove to politicians, policymakers, and scholars across a variety of disciplines that both suburban liberals and Massachusetts need to be understood less for the reasons that they stood against the national tide and more for what they represent about American society and politics over the last 50 years.

Selected Recent Publications

Good Neighbors for Fair Housing: Suburban Liberalism and Racial Inequality in Metropolitan Boston.” Journal of Urban History 39, no. 3 (May 2013): 454-477.
Kennedy’s Liberalism.” in A Companion to John F. Kennedy, ed. Marc Silverstone, (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014).
Integrating Gender and Political History into Courses on Post-1945 U.S. History.” with Tamar Carroll, Perspectives on History: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association (March 2012): 28-30.


Shamira Gelbman - Political Science, University of Virginia

Project: Coalitions of the Unwilling: Insurgency and Enfranchisement in the United States and South Africa

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Fellowship year: 2006

Mentor: Elisabeth Clemens, University of Chicago

Shamira Gelbman is the Byron K. Trippet Assistant Professor of Political Science at Wabash College.

Gelbman's research interests include race, social movements, and democratization in the United States and South Africa. 

Based on a paired comparison of the American civil rights movement and the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Gelbman's dissertation argued that state actors' responses to social movements vary with changing coalition dynamics at both the elite and mass levels. Specifically, the confluence of intra-regime conflict and labor-civil rights coalitions provides the incentives for democratic concessions that would otherwise be too politically risky for public officials who are beholden to constituencies that oppose suffrage expansion to undertake.

Selected Recent Publications

"Interest Groups, Twitter, and Civic Education.” in Civic Education in the Twenty-First Century: A Multidimensional Inquiry (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015): 273-290.

Affirmative Action.” Encyclopedia of Politics of the American West, ed. Stephen L. Danvers (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2013). 

Alien Land Laws.Encyclopedia of Politics of the American West, ed. Stephen L. Danvers (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2013). 


Larycia Hawkins - Political Science, University of Oklahoma

Project: Framing the Faith-Based Initiative: Black Church Elites and the Black Policy Agenda

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Fellowship year: 2007

Mentor: Drew Smith, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

Larycia Hawkins the Abd el-Kader Visiting Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia

Prior to obtaining her Ph.D., Hawkins worked in state government administering federal programs, including the Social Security Disability Programs and the Community Development Block Grant. 

Dr. Hawkins’ research interests lie at the intersection of race, religion, and politics.  She is currently working to publish her dissertation, Framing the Faith-Based Initiative: Black Church Elites and the Black Policy Agenda.  Her active research agenda includes projects that explore the extent to which black theology frames black political rhetoric and how black theology is reflected on black political agendas, like those of the  Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP; and a project that considers the political activism of black congregations outside the ambit of the black church (i.e. black Catholic parishes, United Church of Christ).

Hawkins's dissertation asked: Is the black agenda collective or disparate? Evidence of a disconnect between black mass opinion and the policy agenda of black political elites necessitates scholarly inquiry. For example, 81% of African Americans and Hispanics are favorably disposed toward government-funding of faith-based social services, higher than the 68% of White Americans and 75% of the national sample registering similar support. Yet, the legislative agendas of the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP reveal the active efforts of black political and civic elites to oppose the Faith-Based and Community Initiative. Hawkins's dissertation examined this disconnect via the black policy agenda with reference to how the black church, the seminal institution of black society, figures into this puzzle. Her dissertation also determined which policy images contribute to the black political dynamic with regard to the Faith-Based and Community Initiative. Specifically, Hawkins demonstrated how black pastors define the Faith-Based and Community Initiative and how pastoral definitions of political issues influence the broader black political process, including black politicians and the black policy agenda.

Selected Recent Publications

Religion and American Politics: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives, with Amy Black and Doug Koopman (Pearson, 2011)


Nora Krinitsky - History, University of Michigan

Project: The Politics of Crime Control: Race, Policing, and State Power in Modern America

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Fellowship year: 2016

Mentor: Kelly Lytle Hernandez, University of California, Los Angeles

“The Politics of Crime Control: Race, Policing, and State Power in Modern America,” examines the building of the American coercive state from the end of World War I through the early post-World War II years, with particular attention to the entwined processes of criminalization and racialization in the urban North. Chicago serves as the site of analysis, and offers an ideal site through which to consider many of the pivotal transformations in modern American history and their relationship to crime control—including urban expansion, migrations and immigrations, tensions between labor and capital, Prohibition and the temperance movement, industrial boom and economic crisis. The dissertation augments the burgeoning historical literature on the American carceral state, and demonstrates that in order to understand the vast scope of modern coercive state power, scholars must consider the dense legal terrain of American cities, and account for the considerable power wielded by local policing institutions to define the boundaries of legality. The dissertation weaves together analyses of these state institutions, as well as their critics and members of policed communities, drawing on municipal, state, and federal government records, legal treatises and legislative debates, commission investigations, news reports, and the records of social reform and racial improvement organizations. Policing thus serves as a lens through which to understand the production of racial knowledge, the relationship between citizens and the coercive state, and the negotiation of rights in the modern United States. 


Christopher J. Lebron - Political Science, Massachusetts institute of Technology

Project: Power, Race, History and Justice in America

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Fellowship year: 2008

Mentor: Kwame Appiah, New York University

Christopher J. Lebron is Assistant Professor of African American Studies and Philosophy at Yale University

Lebron's general interests are in issues of social justice, and political theory methodology. 

His dissertation put forth a conception of justice termed democratic partnership developed for the purpose of addressing extant racial injustices in American society. He began from the premise that significant patterns of injustice in any society can only be understood, hence properly addressed, when we consider the development of the injustice over the course of a specified historical period. Further, any resulting injustice importantly centered on those aspects of social existence which undermine one's ability to partake and benefit from that society's resources and political life – he offered that this is the ability to have a sufficient amount of self-respect. Historically grounded injustices are best addressed, so he argued, by a normative theory informed by a robust conception of power, which he termed historically evolved socially embedded power. To give context to the claims of justice and this conception of power, he sought to provide a relevant political historical narrative focusing on the relations of power between major social, political, and economic institutions and persons of color and which considers the broader impact on society over time. Democratic partnerships are only fulfilled when the appropriate institutions take on the stipulated responsibilities while persons of color utilize the social bases of self-respect in order to be substantive equal members of democratic society.

Selected Recent Publications

The Color of Our Shame: Race and Justice in Our Time (Oxford University Press, July 2013).

What, To the Black American, Is Martin Luther King Jr. Day?New York Times Opinionator-The Stone, January 18, 2015.


Heather Lewis - History, New York University

Project: Scaling Down: Half a Century of Community Control in New York City's Schools, 1945–95

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Heather Lewis is Associate Professor of Art and Design Education at the Pratt Institute’s School of Art and Design.

Lewis’s teaching and research integrate the history of education, art and design, and urban development through the prism of New York City’s urban communities and their changes over time.

The community control movement in education was part of a multi-pronged movement targeting housing, employment, healthcare, policing and welfare in many of New York City's African-American, Puerto Rican, and Asian communities of the late 1960s. While the movement for community control of schools paralleled and intersected with organizing in other fields, it had a distinct trajectory and a unique set of outcomes because of the role public education is supposed to play in producing the conditions for citizen participation in democratic governance.

Spanning a half-century in New York City's school system (1945–95), Lewis interpreted the historical trajectory of multiple efforts to scale up educational reform by scaling down governance and bureaucracy. Her dissertation claimed that improvement was possible because educators and school board members in these decentralized districts were driven by a similar moral commitment to societal and school change as were the community control activists in the 1960s. Given the limitations of the school system's decentralized structure, a downturn in the local and national economy, and the continued resistance of the teachers' and principals' unions to community control, local district leaders' accomplishments in the '70s and '80s were significant. Lewis's dissertation posited that while the continuity of leadership and improvement in educational outcomes in these districts may not have been representative of the 32 community school districts created under decentralization, the districts' broader social and political contexts were not atypical. Rather than treating the two districts as idiosyncratic, her dissertation argued that other New York City community school districts with similar student populations and committed leadership could have followed a different course if there had been more effective support from the central school system, teachers' and principals' unions, elected officials and the public.

Selected Recent Publications

New York City’s Public Schools From Brownsville to Bloomberg: Community Control and its Legacy (Teachers College Press, 2013).

Future Teachers and Historical Habits of Mind: A Pedagogical Case Study. History of Education Quarterly, 56, no. 2 (February, 2016)

Assessment by Design: Scaling up by Thinking Small.” in Reframing Quality Assurance in Creative Disciplines (2015): 107-116.


Quinn Mulroy - Politics, Columbia University

Project: Private Litigation, Public Policy Enforcement: The Regulatory Power of Private Litigation and the American Bureaucracy

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Fellowship year: 2011

Mentor: Dan Carpenter, Harvard University

Quinn Mulroy is Assistant Professor in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University

Mulroy received a Ph.D. in American Politics from Columbia University where she worked with Ira Katznelson. She received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of California-Berkeley in 2001.

She studies American politics, with a substantive focus on race and labor policy, the legal system, and regulatory agencies and a methodological interest in combining historical and quantitative approaches to research. Her current research project investigates the role of private power, particularly that supplied by private litigation, in the American regulatory state, and uses archival and statistical work to explore how and under what conditions regulatory agencies motivate private actors to engage in litigation that advances regulatory goals. Her work has appeared in Studies in American Political Development ("The Rise and Decline of Presidential Populism" (October 2004), co-authored with Terri Bimes, University of California-Berkeley), and she is a researcher with the American Institutions Project (under Ira Katznelson and John Lapinski) at the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy at Columbia. Her research interests include American political development, public policy, political institutions, the courts and litigation, bureaucracy, Congress, and race and labor policy.

Her dissertation examined the role of private power, particularly that supplied by private litigation, in the American regulatory state. While traditional accounts suggest that the progressive regulatory state that came into being over the course of the extended New Deal and Great Society periods is weak when compared to its counterparts abroad, Mulroy's research builds on a revisionist strain within the APD literature which identifies strategies by which a lean liberal state can achieve impressive regulatory results. Through a historical analysis of the development of the regulatory capacity of several agencies, she argued that constrained agencies may look outside themselves, and their formally granted administrative powers, for enforcement power by developing incentive structures that encourage private actors to engage in litigation that advances regulatory goals. She found that variation in the use of this alternate source of regulatory power by agencies can be explained by factors related to an agency's institutional development and formation, but also that the character, scope, and activation of this pathway of enforcement over time is contingent upon political and temporal considerations. By reconsidering how to integrate informal mechanisms of enforcement, like agency-motivated private litigation, into theories of bureaucratic regulation, her project aimed to contribute to our practical understanding of 'day-to-day' agency behavior and to our conceptions and assessments of state capacity, more broadly.

Selected Recent Publications

Was the South Pivotal? Situated Partisanship and Policy Coalitions during the New Deal and Fair Deal.” with Ira Katznelson, Journal of Politics 74, no. 2 (April 2012): 604-620.


Shannon Nix - History, University of Virginia

Project: ‘The Soul of our Foreign Policy’: Human Rights Politics, U.S. Foreign Policy, and the Struggle for Central America, 1976-1984

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Shannon Nix’s dissertation examines a series of transnational political struggles waged on the terrain of human rights and their influence on U.S. policy toward overlapping Central American crises during the Carter and Reagan administrations.  While recognizing the importance of traditional U.S. policymakers, it draws attention to the contribution of non-governmental organizations in Washington and their transnational advocacy networks. Often staffed by former missionaries, as well as civil rights and antiwar activists, many had close ties to mainstream religious groups. Increasingly disillusioned with U.S. Cold War policy, they sought to change Washington’s policy toward nations tragically riven by intransigent inequality and civil war. Building on longstanding commitments to the Social Gospel, fused with emerging theological commitments to ecumenicism and social justice, they used human rights politics to shape both policy and the domestic political climate. More than a Cold War struggle for Central American hearts and minds, this was, quite literally, one for the “soul of American foreign policy.”


Suleiman Osman - History of American Civilization, George Washington University

Project: The Birth of Postmodern New York: Gentrification, Post industrialization and Race in South Brooklyn from 1950 to 1980

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Fellowship year: 2006

Mentor: Thomas Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania

Suleiman Osman is Associate Professor of American Studies at George Washington University.

He specializes in U.S. urban history, the built environment, U.S. cultural and social history, and the study of race and ethnicity, with a particular focus on the way urban space both shapes and is produced by culture and politics. His book Inventing Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York was published by Oxford University Press in February 2011. A history of gentrification in Brooklyn, the book explores the relationship between New York’s physical and symbolic cityscapes. Tracing the efforts of a new middle class to reinhabit and restore aging Victorian neighborhoods, Professor Osman examines how Brooklyn’s declining commercial and industrial landscapes were recast as postindustrial sites of anti-bureaucratic authenticity.

Professor Osman is also pursuing a broader project that looks at 1970s’ urban politics and culture. His recent chapter, "The Decade of the Neighborhood,” in Julian Zelizer and Bruce Schulman’s Rightward Bound: Making America Conservative in the 1970s, offers an analysis of the “neighborhood movement” of the 1970s and traces the widespread and eclectic revolts against urban growth politics in New York, Boston and other cities in the 1970s.


Justin Peck - Politics, University of Virginia

Project: Reclaiming Power: An Analysis of Congressional Reassertion Efforts, 1828–2002

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Justin Peck is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at San Francisco State University

His research is in the areas of separation of powers (Congress and the presidency), American Political Development, and American political institutions, and race policy.  His work has appeared in Studies in American Political Development (“Between Reconstructions: Congressional Action on Civil Rights, 1891-1940” (April 2010), co-authored with Jeffery A. Jenkins and Vesla M. Weaver University of Virginia), and is forthcoming at the Law and History Review (“Building Toward Major Policy Change: Congressional Action on Civil Rights, 1940-1950,” coauthored with Jeffery A. Jenkins, University of Virginia.) His writing has also been published by the online edition of Dissent magazine.

Justin received a B.A. in Politics and History from Brandeis University in 2005. After graduating he went on to work on the legislative staff and presidential campaign of then-Senator Christopher J. Dodd. After spending two years in Washington, D.C. he made the transition to University of Virginia.

Justin's dissertation examines Congressional efforts to reassert authority vis-à-vis the executive branch.  He defines congressional reassertion as any attempt by Congress–using the formal law-making process–to challenge or contest executive branch governing authority. Through a detailed search of the History of Joint Bills and Resolutions, he compiles an index of legislative reassertion bills.  He then categorizes reassertion strategies over time, systematically analyzes the motivations underlying those who instigate such efforts, and specifies the political conditions that generate them.  In so doing, he uses both historical and large-n methodology to provide insight into one neglected aspect of Congressional behavior, to illustrate patterns in reassertion activity over time, and to demonstrate the policy consequences that inhere to conflicts over “who governs” in our system of separate institutions sharing powers.

Selected Recent Publications

"Congressional Reassertion of Authority.” in Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science. ed. Rick Valelly. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

Building Toward Policy Change: Congressional Action on Civil Rights, 1941-1950.” with Jeffery A. Jenkins.  Law and History Review 31 (February 2013): 139-198


Christopher Schmidt - History of American Civilization, Harvard University

Project: Postwar Liberalism and the Origins of Brown v. Board of Education

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Fellowship year: 2004

Mentor: Michael Klarman, Harvard University Law School

Christopher W. Schmidt is Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States (ISCOTUS) at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago-Kent.

Schmidt teaches in the areas of constitutional law, legal history, comparative constitutional law, and sports law. He has written on a variety of topics, including the political and intellectual context surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the Tea Party as a constitutional movement, how Supreme Court Justices communicate with the American people, the Supreme Court's decision in the health care case, and the rise of free agency in Major League Baseball. He is currently writing a book on the legal history of the student lunch counter sit-in movement of 1960.

Schmidt's dissertation followed the genesis of the 20th century American Civil Rights movement. Prior to the 1940s, the United States government had done little to promote racial equality for well over half a century, yet by the mid-1950s this situation was transformed, creating the foundations on which the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and 1960s would be built. Schmidt's dissertation explained the dramatic policy shift by analyzing the origins of Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 school desegregation opinion. His project's central motivating question: why did the nine justices of the Supreme Court, whose political and ideological affinities varied considerably, decide to make, at this time and place, a statement against blatant legalized racial discrimination? His answer to this question drew on the context of liberal thought and culture in early postwar America as well as the particular legal issues confronted by the justices. Currently, Schmidt is revising his dissertation, "Creating Brown v. Board of Education: Ideology and Constitutional Change, 1945-1955," for publication.

Selected Recent Publications

"Divided by Law: The Sit-Ins and the Role of the Courts in the Civil Rights Movement." Law and History Review (November 2013).


Sarah Seo - History, Princeton University

Project: The Fourth Amendment, Cars, and Freedom in Twentieth-Century America

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Fellowship year: 2016

Mentor: David Sklansky, Stanford Law School

Seo has been selected as the Charles W. McCurdy Fellow in Legal History.

Most scholars have explained the development of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence in the twentieth century as an enduring struggle to limit the police’s discretionary authority to protect individual rights. But by beginning her inquiry with the automobile in American society—one of the most contested sites of the Fourth Amendment, yet the least studied—Seo’s show that the evolution in the law of searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment reflected the more difficult challenge of accommodating the police within the meaning of freedom itself. The mass production of the automobile created the greatest urban disorder at the turn of the century, and the state’s power to regulate the social chaos of the automotive society increasingly encompassed a proactive, discretionary form of policing. Seo’s project traces the implications of this shift in governance from nineteenth-century self-regulation to twentieth-century policing through Fourth Amendment car search-and-seizure cases. By prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fourth Amendment governed the first point of encounters between individuals and the police. And in the twentieth century, most of those encounters happened in the context of a traffic stop. Car stops and searches thus offer an important perspective not only on how the citizen-police relationship has evolved, but also on how Americans have wrestled with the paradox of discretionary policing in a society committed to the rule of law. Ultimately, the resolution entailed a change in what it meant to live in a free society. 


Damion Thomas - History, University of California, Los Angeles

Project: "The Good Negroes": African-American Athletes and the Cultural Cold War, 1945–68

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Fellowship year: 2002

Mentor: Jeffrey Sammons, University of North Carolina

Damion Thomas is Assistant Professor of Physical Cultural Studies and affiliate faculty in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland.

Thomas's research interests include:  Sport and United States race relations, Black internationalism, African American popular culture, U.S. foreign relations, and Black masculinity. His book, Globetrotting: African American Athletes and Cold War Politics, provides a transnational perspective to the study of domestic American racial affairs by examining U.S. government attempts to manipulate international perceptions of U.S. race relations during the early days of the Cold War.  As nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin American gained their independence, the State Department began to send prosperous African Americans overseas to showcase African Americans as the preeminent citizens of the African Diaspora, rather than as victims of racial oppression. Athletes were prominently featured in the State Department goodwill tours, designed to undermine anti-Americanism. However, as African-American athletes began to provide counter narratives to State Department claims about American exceptionalism—most notably during the 1968 Mexico City Olympic protest—the transatlantic relationships these tours fostered were co-opted as a means to foster African Diasporic cultural and political agendas.

Thomas's dissertation, "'The Good Negroes': African-American Athletes and the Cultural Cold War, 1945–1968," examined State Department attempts to manipulate international perceptions of United States race relations by sending African-American athletes abroad as cultural ambassadors. This project argued that the politics of symbolism associated with the African-American athletes and integrated teams were designed to give legitimacy to existing racial inequalities in American society during the Cold War/Civil Rights Era. The symbol of the integrated athlete allowed the government to argue that the racial order was not an impediment to the advancement of individual African Americans.

Selected Recent Publications

Globetrotting: African American Athletes and Cold War Politics (University of Illinois Press, 2012).


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