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Laura Helton, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of History, specializes in American literature and history of the twentieth century with an emphasis on African American print culture and public humanities. Her research and teaching interests include archival studies, material texts, race and memory, gender and sexuality, and the literary history of social movements. Her first book, Scattered and Fugitive Things: How Black Collectors Created Archives and Remade History (Columbia University Press, 2024), explores the emergence of African American archives and libraries to show how historical recuperation shaped forms of racial imagination in the early twentieth century.
Professor Helton currently serves as a Scholar-Editor of “Remaking the World of Arturo Schomburg,” a collaborative digital editing project with Fisk University and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. In 2021, she co-edited a special issue of African American Review devoted to the Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile Arturo Schomburg. Her 2019 article, “On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading," won the Donald G. Davis Article Award from the American Library Association and the Maria Stewart Journal Article Prize from the African American Intellectual History Society. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Scholars-in-Residence Program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Bibliographical Society of America. Professor Helton's interest in the social history of archives arose from her earlier career as an archivist. She has surveyed and processed collections that document the civil rights era, women's movement, and American radicalism for several cultural institutions, including the Mississippi Digital Library, Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, CityLore, and the Schomburg Center. She has also worked with arts organizations as a grant writer and curator.
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