Projects and Undergraduate Research

Each year the Griot Institute works closely with a presidential fellow, a graduate student and a group of undergraduate students to build on past research projects and pursue new research endeavors.

Current student-led projects include:

The Sugar Mills Project

This project involves researching, mapping, historicizing and narrativizing the sugar mills of Antigua. As part of a summer 2016 course in the Caribbean, Professor Carmen Gillespie, English, and a group of students began surveying the land on the island of Antigua with a keen eye toward the island’s history. The project focuses on the numerous sugar mills on the island, which total about 200 despite the limited space — about the same size as Union County. Several groups that have gone to the Caribbean have had the good fortune to meet Agnes Meeker, an independent historian, who has spent decades cataloging the location and histories of each of the mills on Antigua.

A group of Bucknell student engineers worked with the Griot Institute from 2017-18 to create a template for the end goal of this project, an interactive, web-based map of the island that includes each of its six parishes and every sugar mill that existed in its history. The interactive map will provide information about each mill, its ownership chronology and information about the enslaved peoples who worked there. Students are working with Meeker to add details and with Digital Scholarship to enhance the map.

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Civil Rights Project

The Bucknell Civil Rights Project is an archive of Bucknell’s records from the Civil Rights era. It provides documentation of civil rights issues at Bucknell; Bucknell’s NAACP chapter and scholarship opportunities for Black students; information on African American speakers that visited the University; materials on exchange programs Bucknell participated in with historically Black universities; the University’s ongoing effort to increase diversity; and the difficulties that Black students attending predominantly white universities during this time period often faced.

Griot students are combing Bucknell’s archives for additional material and collaborating with the Digital Scholarship team to enhance the display of this information.

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Brawley/MLK Bust Project

In spring 2017, the Griot Institute partnered in the establishment of the Brawley bust, located in the garden in front of Vaughan Literature Building. The bust commemorates the 1875 graduation of Bucknell’s first Black graduate, Edward McKnight Brawley, and Dr. Martin Luther King's 1958 visit to campus. Professor Joe Meiser, art & art history, designed and sculpted the commemorative bust. The project was made possible through the generous support of the Office of the President and the Black Alumni Association. The Brawley bust project was a collaboration of Meiser, former Provost Barbara Altmann, the Griot Institute, University Advancement, Communications, Facilities and the Samek Art Museum.

Charles Bell Genealogy Project

Born in Rumley, Va., (in what is now West Virginia) on Dec. 11, 1827, Charles R. Bell was a former slave who fled to freedom via the Underground Railroad. He escaped from slavery in 1851 and fled to Canada, taking his wife along with him. Bell returned home to West Virginia after the Civil War. According to legend, on the way back to his wife and new home in Canada, Bell encountered Bucknell University President Justin Loomis, who asked him to work on the campus felling trees and performing other tasks necessary to the University’s growth and development. For the next 40 years, Bell served as a highly regarded employee of Bucknell. Undergraduate research students worked with Professor Emerita Marj Kastner to find Bell's descendants. The ultimate goal of the project is to honor Bell by presenting his family with an honorary degree in his name.

Black History Timeline

Over the course of its history, the Bucknell University campus has served as a springboard for cultural exploration and conversation in the community. Though many have felt their stories were excluded, the university is making efforts to improve its recognition and support of historically marginalized members of the community. The Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures developed some years ago and continues to update the Bucknell Black History Timeline, a dynamic archive of Black students’ experiences on and contributions to Bucknell’s campus. Created by Bucknell student Marissa Calhoun '10, the material on the timeline was uncovered in the University archives or in other instances was also derived from testimonies of Bucknell students, staff, and alum. The intention of the Black History timeline is to detail and highlight as many of the meaningful and significant milestones in Bucknell University's Black history. Griot students are currently updating and maintaining the timeline.

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Contact Details

Griot Institute for the Study of Black Lives & Cultures


Hildreth-Mirza Hall, Second Floor