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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.

Robert ParkinsonPatrick Henry Fellow

Robert Parkinson is the 2018-2019 Patrick Henry Fellow. 

A scholar of early American history, especially the American Revolution, Robert Parkinson is associate professor of history at Binghamton University. His first book, The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution (North Carolina Press, 2016) won multiple prizes, including the James A. Rawley Prize given by the Organization of American Historians as the best book on U.S. race relations. After earning his PhD at the University of Virginia, Parkinson was a postdoctoral fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture at the College of William & Mary. 

During his fellowship, Parkinson will be working on a new book manuscript, The Heart of American Darkness: Savagery, Civility, and Murder on the Eve of the American Revolution. The book’s central event is the grisly mass murder that took place on April 30, 1774, when a heralded frontiersman from one of the most famous families in the backcountry, Michael Cresap, allegedly ambushed nearly ten Mingo Indians at the mouth of Yellow Creek on the Ohio River. This is a story of empire-on-the-make, of exploitation and cruelty, of death and derangement, of a strange river that opens up lands of potential and desire, of reputations made “out there.” Further, it is a story that weighs heavily on our clean division between who is “savage” and who is “civil.” During his fellowship year, Parkinson will be developing a literary approach to interpreting the violent, chaotic history of the Ohio Valley on the eve of the Revolution. 

Hodson Trust - John Carter Brown Library Fellow

Tara Bynum is the 2019 Hodson Trust-John Carter Brown Library Fellow

A scholar of early American history, in particular African American literary history, Tara A. Bynum is an Assistant Professor of African American literature and culture at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. Her research and writing examine the many ways that people experience blackness as a racial identity, as a cultural category or as mark upon the skin. Bynum’s essays have appeared in Common-Place, Legacy, J19, Criticism, and American Periodicals.  

While in residence as a Hodson-Brown fellow, Bynum will be revising her book project, Reading Pleasures (under contract, University of Illinois Press’ New Black Studies series) and mining the many primary sources for those stories that contextualize this literary history. Reading Pleasures parses the archive to interrogate the many ways that people experience blackness as a racial identity, as a cultural category, or as a mark upon the skin. It moves beyond “black” as a category of resistance in order to historicize racialized materiality in the everyday lives of revolutionary-era black people. At a time when Twitter responds to the deaths of unarmed black men and women with #blacklivesmatter, this work charts a “historiography of experience” and a historiography of the ways in which black lives have always mattered to black people. It questions, very specifically, what makes life matter in the writings of Phillis Wheatley, John Marrant, James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, and David Walker. And, what matters in their sermons, letters, or narratives—namely, friendship, faith, love or activism—oftentimes feels good, and this good feeling happens in those inside spaces where they can and do feel freely.

Bynum has received generous financial support from Hampshire College, the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Antiquarian Society, Library Company of Philadelphia and the Program in African American History, Rutgers University and the Postdoctoral Fellowship in African American Literature, University of Pennsylvania’s McNeil Center for Early American Studies, College of Charleston, and Towson University.