Scholars from higher education institutions across the country will explore Black and indigenous historical narratives that are part of the founding of the U.S. in a three-week program co-led by Andrea Roberts, Texas A&M assistant professor of urban planning.

The June 12 – July 1, 2022 institute, “Towards a People’s History of Landscape,” will take place at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C. It’s funded by a $200K grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which supports research, education, preservation, and programs in academic disciplines that study aspects of human society and culture.

The institute will focus on a scholarly approach that puts “place” at the center of historic narratives, said Roberts.

“Place is not only a geographical site but a critical agent in shaping human behavior and social, environmental, and cultural relationships,” she said.

Three women at a cemetery in a wooded area
Andrea Roberts, assistant professor of urban planning, center, field tests an app to evaluate a cemetery that's part of a Shankleville, a Texas Freedom Colony in the eastern part of the state. Jennifer Blanks, right, a Ph.D. Urban and Regional Sciences student, is developing the app. At left is Lareatha Clay, a Shankleville descendant. Roberts will co-lead a 2022 program focusing on scholarly narratives of Black and indigenous narratives. 

Participants will examine alternative approaches to the study and teaching of place-based social histories, such as Roberts’ Texas Freedom Colonies Project. Freedom Colonies are self-sufficient, all-Black settlements founded between 1866-1930 by formerly enslaved people.

The event’s faculty and Ph.D. student attendees, many of whom will hail from Hispanic-serving institutions, historically black colleges and universities, and tribal and community colleges, will attend daily seminars led by Roberts and institute co-director Thaisa Way, Dumbarton Oaks’ resident program director for garden and landscape studies.

It will also feature additional leading scholars in American Indian and indigenous studies, geography, and architecture.

The program will also include field trips and time dedicated to individual research and teamwork. Participants will jointly develop an online repository of teaching modules that focus on places throughout the U.S.