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New fellowship examines race in Indiana

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Indiana Humanities is currently accepting applications for the Wilma Gibbs Moore Fellowship, an opportunity to study race, protests and policing throughout Indiana’s history. 

After the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed, Leah Nahmias, director of programs and community engagement for Indiana Humanities, said the organization wanted to focus on Indiana’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, past, present and future.

Applicants selected for the fellowship will receive $2,500 to conduct research on anti-Black racism in the state, and Nahmias hopes researchers will have something — such as a chapter or a book or a blog post — prepared by the end of 2021.

“When you fund research, it’s not always clear what the immediate use will be,” Nahmias said. “ … Research has this really long payoff period, and all of the scholars should have a plan for how they might share this research with the public or scholarly sources over the next year.”

The fellowship is named for former Indiana Historical Society archivist and librarian Wilma Gibbs Moore, who was one of Indiana’s top scholars of African American history. Moore died in 2018 at the age of 67.

“Wilma Moore is the reason we know as much as we know about African American history in Indiana,” Nahmias said. “She was a champion in community building. … When we were discussing the fellowship and who we would name it after, we had about a half a minute of conversation before we decided on Wilma.”

Those who worked with Moore said the fellowship could not be more aptly named. 

“Oh, she had so much knowledge, but there was also that willingness to share that knowledge,” said Suzanne Hahn, vice president the Indiana Historical Society’s archives and library. “I saw her countless times stop what she was doing to go and help a researcher find information or help a colleague who had a question. She was so, so giving of her time.”

Hahn, who has been at the library for over 20 years, said working with Moore was a privilege, and said Moore’s passion projects helped shape Hoosiers’ knowledge of Indiana history. 

“She would collect material, work with families and organizations, and brought that documentation to our library … and those stories were preserved so that others could then know about it,” Hahn said. “She was such a treasure, so knowledgeable and so giving to colleagues, students and anyone who met her.”

Indiana Humanities is accepting applications for the Wilma Gibbs Moore Fellowship through Sept. 28. Selected fellows will conduct research through the end of 2021.

“We’re really excited,” Nahmias said. “I think people have a lot of burning research questions, especially in the context of the summer we just had. I think this is an opportunity for us to uncover some of that history and name it, and hopefully move forward.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

Wilma Gibbs Moore

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