From the News column of the October 2011 issue of Perspectives on History
NASA and Jameson Fellowships Awarded
Julia Brookins, October 2011
The 2011–12 Fellowship in Aerospace History, sponsored by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and administered by the AHA, has been awarded to Monique Laney, who received her PhD in American Studies from the University of Kansas in 2009. The NASA Fellowship supports research in aerospace history.
For the past year Laney has held the A. Verville Fellowship at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Laney's dissertation, "Transnational Migration and National Memory: How German Rocket Engineers Became Americans in Huntsville, Alabama" was a social and cultural history of German engineers and their families in the Deep South after World War II. It described how more than one hundred German rocket engineers brought to the United States as part of a secret military operation called "Project Paperclip" blended into Southern society in the 1950s and 60s. The positive economic effects of this rocket program for Huntsville overshadowed negative associations with Nazi Germany and war crimes, and many neighbors celebrated the engineers and their families as good citizens and local heroes, vital to the cultural and educational progress of the town.
During the fellowship period, Laney will revise her dissertation into a book for both nonacademic and academic readers, and situate the story of these German immigrants more explicitly in relation to the Cold War and the civil rights movement.
Although she considers herself primarily an American studies scholar of immigration and historical memory, Laney has found historians of science and technology particularly receptive to her work. She will be teaching a course this fall at American University on immigration and religion. She hopes that her book on the Huntsville rocket engineers will make a contribution to the ongoing scholarly and public conversations about highly skilled immigrants and the effects they have on the communities in which they settle.
The J. Franklin Jameson Fellowship for 2011–12 has been awarded to Susan Spellman, assistant professor of history at Miami University (Ohio). The AHA, in partnership with the Library of Congress, awards the Jameson Fellowship annually to one junior scholar for research making extensive use of the library's collections.
Spellman's 2009 dissertation at Carnegie Mellon University explored the surprisingly large role that small grocery stores and their proprietors had in developing innovative retail practices, technologies, and consumption habits. During her research in Washington, D.C., Spellman will revise "Cornering the Market: Independent Grocers and Innovation in American Small Business, 1860–1940" for a book manuscript, using sources throughout the Library of Congress collections to broaden the potential implications of her study. In particular, Spellman will explore the "independent versus chain" store debate in American public life by analyzing how independent grocers, wholesalers, lawmakers, jurists, and trade publications responded to the growth and consolidation of grocery businesses. This debate about the relative merits of chains and independent stores struck deep chords in U.S. political life, throwing into relief two different models of liberalism and the American dream—one that looked to the government to support the "vitality and liberty" of small businesses, and the other of which promoted large, consolidated institutions as the most efficient and inherently modern way to manage society.
Spellman, who is active in the Business History Conference, has visited the Library of Congress briefly on previous occasions. She is "very much looking forward to reading the correspondence of Robert Moton, who helped organize the Colored Merchants Association in the 1920s as a way to fight against the encroachment of chain stores upon black grocers. It has been difficult to find black voices in the business history of the grocery trade; Moton's words will add a powerful counter to the many white voices that have dominated discussion about the battle between independent and chain grocers."
Julia Brookins is project assistant at the AHA. Among other things, she administers the grants, fellowships, and prizes awarded by the Association. She is currently completing the requirements for receiving her PhD in history from the University of Chicago.