Sponsored By

1619: The Making of America Committee

 The organizing committee of the 1619: The Making of America conferences consists of scholars and community leaders dedicated to remembering the events and legacies of 1619 and bringing awareness to issues of race, gender, law and culture that derive from the meeting of the cultures that shaped our nation.

Committee Chair:

Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander has devoted much of her career to expanding the intellectual discourse on the history of African Americans in Hampton Roads and the nation-at large.  From her soon-to-be published co-authored book on the history of blacks in Norfolk (I Too, Am Norfolk) to her numerous publications on Hampton Roads and the Underground Railroad, Portsmouth’s black history, and the history of public schools in Hampton Roads.  Her books include Black America Series: Portsmouth, Hampton Roads:  Remembering Our Schools, Voices from within the Veil:  African Americans and the Experience of Democracy, and An African American History of the Civil War in Hampton Roads.

    Newby-Alexander is also an active grant writer, having received grants amounting to over $700,000 from a host of agencies including the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the State Council for Higher Education. One of her most successful initiatives was the Pre-Graduate Summer Program for undergraduate students at Norfolk State University (NSU) in conjunction with the College of William and Mary that encouraged students interested in pursuing a graduate degree.

    As Director of the Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center for the African Diaspora at NSU, Newby-Alexander has shown a dedication to making history accessible to the general public, working with the Norfolk Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to produce a detailed map and interactive website on the Underground Railroad entitled, “Waterways to Freedom” and a comprehensive map identifying Civil War sites in Hampton Roads.  Additionally, she has directed three major public conferences that bring history to the general public. In 2007, NSU hosted the conference, “Voices from Within the Veil:  African Americans and Democracy in America,” as part of the Federal Commission’s 400th Anniversary conference series.  In 2010 as part of the Sesquicentennial Conference Series in Virginia, she directed the conference, “Race, Slavery, and the Civil War:  The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory,” which was filmed by C-SPAN and was the focus of a History Channel documentary.  Most recently, in 2012, Newby-Alexander directed the first of a series of conferences:  “1619:  The Making of America” that included scholars from ten different universities and engaged students, educators, and the general public in a public dialogue about the importance of understanding this watershed period in American history.

     Cassandra Newby-Alexander currently serves on a number of boards and commissions throughout Virginia as well as a community Facilitator for project, “Remembering Slavery, Resistance, and Freedom Project,” Institute for Historical Biology, College of William and Mary, a reviewer for the NEH, a reviewer for the Underground Railroad, a script writer for Obsidian Productions LLC for the Moton Museum documentary on the student-led strike in 1951 that led to the Dorothy Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward case, and the oral historian for the Supreme Court of Virginia.

    Newby-Alexander has been recognized with her service to the broader community with the 2012 University Professor award by NSU for outstanding work in scholarship and community service, American Legacy magazine for outstanding work in teaching African American History and a host of community groups for her work in bringing history to the general public.

Committee Members:

Dr. William H. Alexander received his B.A. degree from Fisk University and his Ph.D in modern European intellectual and cultural history from Stanford University. He has contributed papers and articles on numerous European and global subjects, including studies about race and slavery in the Enlightenment, the African Diaspora, and the roles of Blacks in European society and culture. He co-edited the work, Voices from within the Veil: African Americans and the Experience of Democracy (1908) and is completing a study of Blacks in French culture. He is currently Professor of History at Norfolk State University where he teaches courses in European and world history.

Dr. Jody L. Allen, a native of Hampton, VA, earned her doctorate in U.S. history at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA in 2007. African American history is her area of specialization including Reconstruction, gender, the Jim Crow Era, and school desegregation. Her dissertation considers the consequences of and responses to the 1902 Virginia constitution revisions that disfranchised most African Americans and many poor whites. She is also working with a colleague to produce "The Green Light," a documentary on the school desegregation case, Charles C. Green v. the School Board of New Kent County, VA. This little-known 1968 Supreme Court decision led to the integration of public schools throughout the South. She co-authored "Recovering a 'Lost' Story Using Oral History: The United States Supreme Court's Historic Green v. New Kent County, Virginia, Decision" which appeared in The Oral History Review in 2006. Currently, Allen is a visiting assistant professor at William and Mary and the co-chair and Managing Director of the Lemon Project, amultifaceted and dynamic attempt to rectify wrongs perpetrated against African Americans by the College through action or inaction” from slavery through the Jim Crow period.

Lynette Lewis Allston resides in Drewryville, Virginia.  A graduate of Duke University and the public schools of Southampton County, Chief Allston returned to Virginia after retiring from two decades of business ownership in South Carolina. She is currently Chief and Chair of the Tribal Council of the Nottoway Indian Tribe of Virginia http://www.nottowayindians.org/, one of 11 Tribes officially recognized by the Commonwealth. During her business and civic career, Lynette served on the corporate Board of the Palmetto Health Hospital System, the largest hospital system in South Carolina; Chair, Palmetto Health Children's Hospital Board; Chair, the Palmetto Health Hospital System Foundation Board; and Chair, Columbia Museum of Art Commission.

Dr. Rich Bond received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, where he specialized in the history of the colonial Atlantic world. His teaching interests range broadly, and include slavery and African American life, religion, colonial culture, and even pirates. Bond's current research focuses more narrowly on free and enslaved African Americans in colonial New York. "Moving to a small, liberal arts college is very exciting for me because the college fosters an environment of exchange and learning," he says. "Teaching in such a place permits me wonderful opportunities to know my students, to teach them, and to learn from them."

Dr. Joanne M. Braxton is Frances L. and Edwin L. Cummings Professor of the Humanities at the College of William and Mary, where she has directed the Middle Passage Project since 1995. A recognized scholarly authority on Black Atlantic literature and culture, Braxton has taught courses on the Middle Passage in the US and abroad for many years. She has written extensively on rituals of remembrance and created them in several states within the United States, as well as in Germany, Cuba and the Netherlands.

Dr. Paula Clark Briggs is an Associate Professor in the department of Mass Communications and Journalism at Norfolk State University.  She received her Ph.D. from Howard University in 2003; her Masters of Arts degree from the University of Missouri- Columbia and her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampton [Institute] University.  Dr. Briggs’ research interests include issues dealing with stereotypes and diversity.  While Dr. Briggs has a love for research, her passion lies in teaching production; specifically, audio, television and electronic field production.  A testament to Dr. Briggs’ teaching ability lies in being recognized in several issues Who’s Who Among America Teachers. Dr. Briggs’ was also awarded the MCJR 2006 - 2007 Faculty Member of the Year award from her department.  Dr. Briggs has received fellowships from the National Association of Television Programming Executives (NATPE), the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS), and the International Radio and Television Society (IRTS).  She has received the IRTS fellowship for multiple years. Dr. Briggs was also an Asian Cultural Studies fellow.  This fellowship afforded her the opportunity to spend one month in China to study Chinese culture through visits to museums, universities, theaters, marketplaces and the like.    Dr. Briggs’ began her media career as a news photographer.  She shot and edited news for KOMU-TV, Columbia, MO; WRAL-TV, Raleigh, NC; and WTKR-TV, Norfolk, VA.  She also produced newscasts at KOMU-TV.  Dr. Briggs worked in radio as well.  She produced vignettes for NPR affiliate KBIA-FM in Columbia, MO and produced and anchored newscasts at WRAP-FM in Portsmouth, VA.  She has been recognized for her work by local and national broadcasting organizations.   

Dr. Eric W. Claville is currently the Assistant Dean for the School of Liberal, an Assistant Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Pre-Law Institute at Hampton University.  There, he teaches legal courses, including Constitutional Law and Civil Rights, Law and the Judicial Process, Legal Research, Legal Writing, Ethics, and Legal Theory.  Prior to joining the Hampton University family he was on staff at Southern University Law Center as an Academic Support Professional (ASPer), where he advised, taught legal skills and served as an Adjunct Professor of Law.  Additionally, Dr. Claville is a C.L.E.O. Scholars Professor through the American Bar Association Council on Legal Education.  His law practice specialization areas are in Tort Actions and Litigation.  He is licensed in the State of Louisiana, Federal District Courts in the 5th Circuit and is a Certified Mediator.  His areas of research interests are in laws and public policy during the time period of slavery, Reconstruction, Segregation, and Jim Crow, including Slave Codes and Black Codes, and increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups into the legal field and legal academy.

    Dr. Claville is a 2000 graduate of the Southern University Nelson Mandela School of Public Policy, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, and a 2006 cum laude honors graduate of Southern University Law Center where he received his Juris Doctorate. He is also a 2009 graduate of Louisiana State University with a Masters of Library and Information Science.

Luci Talbot Cochran grew up in Newport News and stayed in the area to attend college at William and Mary. Her non-profit career began with extensive work in both public relations and programming with the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County in North Carolina. With a B.A. from the College of William & Mary, and a concentration in education, she is also a graduate of the Executive Education Program in Non-profit Management from the Mandel Center of Case Western University. Luci has served as an educational consultant in Newport News and Williamsburg as well as a free-lance television producer in North Carolina. Her non profit career in recent years included leadership in a number of non-profits in Virginia. Luci worked for 12 years with a national arts and education organization called Young Audiences and served for 5 years as the executive director of Young Audiences of Virginia, a state-wide chapter of the national organization. Most recently, she served as the executive director of the Peninsula Fine Arts Center in Newport News and before joining the Hampton History Museum in November of 2011.

Dr. Imtiaz Habib is Professor of English at Old Dominion University in Virginia. He is the author of Shakespeare and Race: Postcolonial Praxis in the Early Modern Period (2000), Black Lives in the English Archives, 1500-1676, and essays on early modem English literature and culture.

Hugh Harrell

Dr. Rebecca Hooker holds a PhD in English from the University of New Mexico, with a specialization in early nineteenth-century African-American and Native-American racial uplift texts. Her research includes recovery of nineteenth century texts by African Americans and Native Americans, and activism as uplift in the nineteenth century. She holds masters degrees in English and cultural studies from George Mason University and in College Student Personnel Administration from Indiana University, and a BA in English from Carleton College.

Dr. Michael Edward Hucles, native of Brooklyn, New York, received his B.A. in Sociology-Anthropology from Swarthmore College, in 1972; his M.A. in History from Virginia State University, in 1975; and his Ph.D. in History from Purdue University, in 1990. His research and teaching interests have focused on the African American experience especially in the urban South and specifically Norfolk, Virginia.  He recently completed a history of African Americans in Norfolk with Drs. Tommy Bogger and Cassandra Newby-Alexander, both at Norfolk State University.

Dr. Cathy M. Jackson, associate professor at Norfolk State University, teaches courses in media writing, multiculturalism and the mass media, media ethics, film history and criticism, and the history of the African-Americans in movies. Her scholarly interests, which are related to the mass media, include its existence in the Old West, history, folklore, diversity, and coverage of Old West outlaws. She has published articles and book chapters, and her expertise on Jesse James, the 19th-century outlaw, won her the 2005 James-Younger Gang Milton Perry Award for Outstanding Research, in addition to an appearance on a 2006 American Experience documentary “Jesse James,” and 2011 segment of the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum. Her career in newspapers included stints as a general assignment and features reporter at the Flint (Michigan) Journal and as a features reporter at the Tampa Tribune. She has freelanced for several publications, including ESSENCE Magazine, for which she wrote an article that earned her an invitation to appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Ervin Jordan

Dr. Drew Lopenzina is the author of Red Ink: Native Americans Picking up the Pen in the Colonial Period. His work examines the innovative ways in which Native peoples adapted their own literary traditions to meet the demands of print literacy in the colonial milieu and to resist the violent imposition of European expectations and norms. Lopenzina has published in a number of edited collections and journals including American Literature and American Quarterly. He is currently writing a book on the life of nineteenth-century Pequot Indian and Methodist minister William Apess. He is professor of early American and Native American literature at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA.

Dr. Camellia Okpodu is the director of the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence (IC-CAE) and former Chair of Biology at Norfolk State University as well as the first Marshall A. Rauch Distinguished Professor of Biology at Elizabeth City State University, North Carolina. She has taught courses in Biotechnology, Botany and Plant Biochemistry. Dr. Okpodu was featured in How Jane Won, a book about 55 successful women who share their experiences from being "just girls" to becoming extraordinary women in today's society. She is the author of many research papers, presentations and a laboratory textbook in plant physiology. From her research, her long-term goal is to understand the differential regulation of antioxidant enzymes and to advance comprehension of antioxidant metabolism at the cellular and molecular levels in eukaryotic cells.

 Calvin Pearson is the Founder of Project 1619 Inc. and our goal is to promote the correct history that the first Africans to arrive in Colonial America did not land at Jamestown but came ashore at Point Comfort, today’s Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA. It’s important as a nation that we know the history of the Africans and the impact their culture has had on the Making of America. There is quote by Chinua Achebe "Until the lions have their own historians, the tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." The Africans in 1619 did not have their own historians so their history was written by their oppressors. Yes the stories of our ancestors are sacred. But what we were taught in school, the history that had been passed down from generations has been proven to be inaccurate.

Dr. Delores Phillips

Dr. Stephanie Richmond is an assistant professor of history at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, VA, where she teaches courses in American, African-American and women's history.  She is currently working on her first book on the origin of women's rights and feminist thought in the transatlantic anti-slavery movement.  She served as co-chair of the 2012 1619: The Making of America conference and as editor of the 1619 website.

Dr. Timothy Robinson is the Assistant Professor of African American Literature and Critical Race Theory in the Department of English at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He has written articles on neo-slave narratives, the representation of Black women in science fiction and, most prominently, on a character that Toni Morrison refers to as “the ancestor” which is perhaps one the most important tropes in Black literature. Timothy has completed his first book, In The Presence of the Ancestor: History, Culture, and the Literary Imagination in African American Fiction and is working on a long term project called The Encyclopedia of Slavery and Freedoom. The Encyclopedia will consider the earliest modes of the oral tradition, move to the written poetry of Phillis Wheatley and culminate with the most prominent neo-slave narratives. This project will provide a comprehensive and accessible catalog on the subject of slavery in American literature, and it will have a sharp focus on African American writers. He is currently writing the proposal for his second book, Bloodlines: Vampires and Zombies in African American Neo-Slave Narratives.  

Dr. Robert C. Watson, currently is an Assistant Professor of History  at Hampton University. Professor Watson had taught African and African American history at Washington University in St.Louis; University of Missouri, St.Louis; and St. Louis University. He was Assistant Director (1989-1991), Director (1991-1994) of African American interpretation and presentations(1994-1996) and Senior Research Historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Mr. Watson has served on several on several advisory boards that focused on the interpretation of African American History including the Advisory Board on African American Interpretation at Monticello and Somerset Place in North Carolina and Montpelier, home of James Madison. He has been a consultant with the National Park Service, PBS Programs, Mount Vernon, Gunston Hall, Strafford Hall, Yorktown, Jamestown Settlement, Weynoake Association, and Historical Jamestown. He is published author and has taken museum professionals and students to West Africa and East Africa. Mr. Watson is considered by many to be an authority on the African Diaspora.

William Braxter Wiggins, historian and scholar of American and African American, Russian, African, Urban, Oral, Social and Intellectual, “Psycho,” and Comparative histories among others, was born in North Carolina.  He received his undergraduate and initial graduate education at Central Connecticut State College, and subsequent graduate/doctoral education at Kent State and Princeton University.  Wiggins has taught at the University of Connecticut, St. Olaf and Allegheny Colleges, Hampton University and Columbia University, where he also served as an Assistant Dean.

He has widely written and spoken about, as well as participated in conferences on Racism and Sexism in America, psycho-history, Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, Marcus M. Garvey, Nat Turner, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, Frederick Douglass and American Military history, among others. His publications include pieces on the “Garvey Movement,” “African American Students on White Campuses,” “Testing,” Louis Farrakhan, Jerome Holland and Booker T. Washington, among others,  He has appeared on C-Span, as a Lincoln-Douglas Debate historian and analyst  and other television programs, participated in radio programs, and newspaper presentations/publications to name a few. Wiggins currently resides in Hampton, VA, is the CEO of Cliosult & Associates, and continues to write, teach, character act, and lecture, while also assisting his wife Margo with her “Creations by Margo Lynn” retail store and mail order business.