The Center for the Humanities has awarded two Faculty Research Fellowships for the coming academic year

Tuesday, August 23, 2022
headshot of Leese and Sokol

Associate Professor Michael Leese (left) and Professor Jason Sokol (right)

Funded by the Center for the Humanities' general endowment and the Ben and Zelma Dorson Endowment in the Humanities, faculty research fellowships provide a semester-long opportunity for junior and tenured faculty to pursue humanities research with no teaching obligations. Awardees participate in the Faculty Fellows Lecture Series in the year following their fellowship.

Jason Sokol, professor of history, will work on his book project, “Jim Crow Must Go,” which presents a new history of the civil rights movement, emphasizing a nationwide perspective. As systems of segregation and white supremacy shaped every region of the United States, the struggles to challenge those systems were also national in scope. Sokol will explore local movements in communities throughout the country, from the early 1940s to the mid-1970s. He will research a series of lunch-counter sit-ins that gripped Chicago, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis in the 1940s, well before the more famous student sit-ins of 1960. He will also explore a wave of school boycotts that took place early in 1964, organized by activists like Boston’s Ruth Batson. These “stay-outs” stretched from Boston and New York to Chicago and Milwaukee, involving almost one million Black pupils. By weaving together overlooked stories like these with more well-known tales from the South, he will build a nationwide history of the civil rights revolution. This is Sokol’s fourth book on the history of the civil rights movement. His first book, "There Goes My Everything," considered the experiences of white southerners during the civil rights era, and his second—"All Eyes Are Upon Us"—examined racial struggles in the Northeast. His third book, "The Heavens Might Crack," was a social history of Martin Luther King’s death, which considered the impact of King’s assassination in both a national and international context.

Michael Leese, associate professor of history, will work on his book project, “Institutional Effects on Economic Growth and Stagnation in Ancient Greece.” Economic history is still largely built upon the assumption that radically new psychological habits allowed the modern West to break free from an irrational mentality that froze the premodern economy in stagnation.  Leese’s project makes a case for turning our attention away from theories of psychological differences between the ancient and modern economies and towards institutional factors such as difficulties in enforcing property rights for commercial and financial capital and the absence of corporate institutions in the ancient Greek world. In his monograph, he will delve deeper into the ways in which institutions created unintended (and insurmountable) limitations to further economic development and will explore especially how fragility at the level of estates would have affected the stability of markets and the commercial and financial sectors of the economy.