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C.V. Starr Center for the

Study of the American Experience

Current Fellows

Through its fellowship programs, the Starr Center supports innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to the American past – especially by fostering the art of written history.

Patrick Henry Fellow

We welcome 2017 Patrick Henry Fellow Martha Saxton to campus for spring semester 2017.

Martha Saxton comes to the Starr Center to continue work on The Widow Washington, a biographical study of the founder’s mother, Mary Ball Washington.  Generations of George’s historians have filled in around the sparse evidence that remains about her with increasingly unpleasant and frequently unfounded interpretations of her and her relationship with her son. The Widow Washington reevaluates this picture against the background of her life that spanned the dramatic changes of eighteenth-century Virginia.   Orphaned early, and inheriting slaves at the age of three, Mary became a wife, mother, widow,  planter, and devoted Anglican. Her education was rudimentary, and she left few records.  The book argues that Mary Washington’s early reliance on George in widowhood,  the family’s endurance of hardship, and Mary’s exacting temperament helped shape her son’s outsized sense of responsibility and persistence.

This book grew out of Saxton’s Being Good, Women’s Moral Values in Early America, (2003) which had a section on eighteenth –century widows in the Chesapeake.  More broadly, the book is part of Saxton’s lifelong interest in locating the lives of women within their historical and social contexts so that their struggles with prevailing conventions can help restore to their memories meanings that have been lost. This was the goal of her earlier biographies— of the sex symbol, Jayne Mansfield (1976) and Louis May Alcott (1977).

Martha Saxton retired in 2016, after teaching at Amherst College for 20 years in the History and Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies Departments.  She has also taught at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia and for several years  in the Inside/Out Program at the Hampshire County House of Corrections in Northampton, Ma. 

This spring semester Martha Saxton will teach a course, “Fictional Transformations,” in the English Department at Washington College.

Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Fellow

2016-2017 Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Fellow Andrew Lawler is a journalist who writes about archaeology, history, and science for a number of magazines. His work has appeared in Best of Science and Nature Writing, and his articles twice won the Gene S. Stuart award. Over more than three decades as a reporter, Lawler has produced more than a thousand stories, including a 2015 piece funded by the Pulitzer Center on threats to isolated peoples in the Peruvian Amazon for Science Magazine.

Lawler’s curiosity led him from Washington, where he covered Congress and the White House, to the Middle East, where he wrote extensively about the impact of war on cultural heritage. More recently Simon & Schuster published his book Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?, chronicling how this common bird transformed our own species as we transformed it. He is a contributing editor for Archaeology and Science, and has written for The New York Times, National Geographic, Smithsonian, and several other publications.

Lawler’s passion for history took him to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a National Geographic article about new archaeological finds relating to the Lost Colony of North Carolina’s Roanoke Island, the first English attempt at settling the New World. The new discoveries, coupled with recent work by historians on the role of the Spanish, Portuguese, Irish, and Native Americans in the venture, are central to his new book project, which he will pursue while in Providence and Chestertown.

For more about Andrew Lawler follow this link.

Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellow

The 2017 Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellow is Marlon Saunders.

 Marlon Saunders is an American singer, songwriter and  record producer. A native of Kent County, Maryland, Saunders is a former professor of voice at Berklee College of Music. He currently teaches at NYU’s Tish Center for the Arts. Saunders has two solo recordings on his independent label, Black Honey Records. Marlon toured with Stevie Wonder on The Songs In The Key of Life Tour, served as vocal contractor for Sam Smith, and has toured with Bobby McFerrin as a member of his vocal group, Voicestra. As a session and touring singer, he has worked with Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Sting, Joe Henderson, Nine Inch Nails, and Dance Theatre of Harlem, among many others. Marlon Saunders appears as the Calypso Singer in the popular Disney film, Enchanted singing the Academy Award-nominated song, “That’s How You Know” with Amy Adams. 

Saunder’s Frederick Douglass fellowship will culminate with an original multi-media work of music, the art of conversation, and photography as it relates to Black Americans who work or have worked in Kent County.  “Choppin’ at the Shop” uses the imagery of the barbershop and the beauty salon, and weaves together ideas about economics, politics, race and gender in order to demonstrate the power of hopes and dreams.

The performance is part of a series of locally developed and produced public humanities programs accompanying the Kent County tour of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street traveling exhibition “The Way We Worked.”

For more about Marlon Saunders, please click here.