Smith wins grant for race relations project

April 24, 2006 11:11 a.m.

Valerie Smith, the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature at Princeton, has been named an Alphonse Fletcher Sr. Fellow to pursue a research project that contributes to improving race relations in American society.

Smith, who also directs Princeton's Program in African American Studies, received a $50,000 grant from the Fletcher Foundation to complete a book tentatively titled "Remembering Civil Rights." The book will examine how the struggle for racial equality associated with the period from the mid-1950s through the late 1960s has been recalled and interpreted in cinematic and literary works produced from the 1980s to the present.

"I am especially concerned with how the memory of what is commonly known as the civil rights movement is used both to challenge and shore up notions of racial and national identity in the United States," Smith said. "Through analyses of selected documentary and feature films, as well as fictional texts and autobiographies, I consider how these works represent the relationship between the civil rights-era activism and the present, the period that declares itself to be 'post-civil rights.'"

The Fletcher Fellows program was established in 2004 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case and to advance its broad social goals. The foundation and fellowship program were created by Alphonse Fletcher Jr., who runs the Wall Street firm Fletcher Asset Management.

Also among the 11 new Fletcher Fellows is Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy, a 1977 Princeton graduate who currently serves as a University trustee. Kennedy will use his fellowship for a project titled "Where Do We Go from Here? Explorations of Race, Law and Politics in 21st-Century America."