Frederick Knights Letter
I hereby submit the following report on my academic progress. The year I spent at the Center for Black Studies brought several rewards. First, I made substantial progress in reconceptualizing and writing my dissertation. While there, I completed drafts of two chapters of the dissertation amounting to half of the entire project. Second, I benefited from contact with a larger community of scholars whose primary interest is the Black experience. Both the faculty in the Black Studies Department and the participants in the Centers Wednesday colloquia offered valuable assistance, inspiration and moral support as I progressed with my own work. Of particular assistance was Dr. Douglas Daniels who read each chapter and offered critical and constructive commentary. In addition, Professor Jacob Olupona, Guggenheim Fellow in residence at the Center, provided his infinite wisdom in support of my work.
As I have stated, my fellowship year at the Center was well spent. I changed the title of my dissertation to The Gift of Labor: West African Contributions to Southern Economic Development, 1750-1850. The title change reflects the positive growth the project underwent while I was at UC Santa Barbara. Though I was unable to complete the dissertation, I established a foundation to enter the job market in a strong position this winter and plan to complete my thesis by the spring. I will keep you abreast of my progress, as things develop.
The material and staff support provided by the Center, and the University in general, were invaluable. I found that the research library and the interlibrary loan system offered almost all of the material I needed. The Center also supported my needs for photocopies and the purchase of several specialized historical monographs and other source material for my dissertation.
My teaching experience was extremely rewarding. I taught an undergraduate seminar in the History Department in antebellum African-American History. I found the students to be extremely talented and challenging to work with. One of my students later took independent study units with me as a research assistant.
There was one major down note in my experience. Being used to more diverse settings, I found the city and campus to be quite alienating. Unfortunately, they are overwhelmingly White, and the community of progressives, scholars and otherwise, seemed small.
Despite this pessimistic note, I have to say that the year I spent in the Center was a year of positive growth and transformation for me. And the rewards will be continually revealed as I mature as a scholar.