The Juneteenth Scholars Program is designed to recognize the importance of university scholarship in understanding connections between the Juneteenth holiday and contemporary struggles against institutional racism, the exposure of structural inequality, and support for vulnerable populations.

Initiated in June 2020 in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, this program is intended to support faculty members in early stages of their careers who are involved in research on topics such as emancipatory movements, structures of oppression, institutional silences about violence, the courage of activists, and the need for systemic structural change, in the United States and globally. 

Juneteenth Scholars will produce outcomes that benefit the scholarly trajectory of the faculty members, including publications, presentations, and other steps needed to move toward promotion and career progression. The purpose of this program is to support faculty research, without any expectation of additional service or teaching or other activities.

The inaugural Juneteenth Scholars will receive a summer salary in the amount of $5,000 for research conducted between July 1 and August 10, 2020. In addition, each Juneteenth Scholar will be asked to identify one undergraduate who can perform funded research to support the faculty’s scholarly activities. The student may begin work this summer, and can work through the fall semester.

The faculty scholars and their students will be invited to present research at a forum during the next academic year. They will also be invited to contribute to discussions of steps to make Juneteenth Scholars Program a permanent form of faculty support in the college and at Virginia Tech.


2021-2022 Scholars


The College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences has named its 2021–2022 cohort of Juneteenth Scholars from eight of its departments and schools.

Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown, an assistant professor of sociology, will research Black feminism related to sports. She plans to collect literature in the fields of Black feminisms and the sociology of sport, as well as compile data from news and magazine articles featuring sportswomen for an upcoming book project.

Mauro Caraccioli, an assistant professor of political science and a core faculty in the Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT), conducts research on the racial hierarchy and political theology of the Spanish Empire. His work for the Juneteenth Scholars Program will involve an examination of two case studies. The first is on the political context of production for the Jesuit Alonso de Sandoval’s ethnographic study of African slavery, which details the early evangelization of African slaves into the Spanish Empire. The second traces the intellectual legacies of the Afro-Peruvian mystic Ursula de Jesus and the institutionalization of Black religious servants into Roman Catholic convents.

Bikrum Singh Gill, an assistant professor of political science and a core faculty member of ASPECT, will continue his research on the intersection of race, environmental justice, and political economy. He argues that a racialized naivety that involves the dehumanization of Indigenous and Black people informs the global economy. He will review the extent to which prominent contemporary ecological restoration projects either advance or work against anti-racist and decolonial futures.

Tameka Grimes, an assistant professor of counselor education, explores the impact of racial trauma on the schooling experiences of Black students from kindergarten through 12th grade in predominantly white rural communities. This research builds on her previous work on rural school counselors’ professional identity construction and their role in advocating for marginalized students.

For Rebecca Hester, an assistant professor in science, technology, and society, the focus will be on the relationship between racism and health in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided ample proof of the pathogenic entanglements between structural racism and public health. Her research examines how racism becomes embodied as chronic inflammation and then how that inflammation leads to chronic illness, an important predictor of death during the pandemic. Her research will inform a larger project on the contested terrain of who and what makes up “biological danger” in public and global health.

Javiera Jaque Hidalgo, an assistant professor of Spanish, analyzes the dynamics of Indigenous resistance in the context of funeral festivities in the colonial city of Santiago, Chile, in the 17th century. She focuses her attention on the political implications of confraternities, lay religious brotherhoods, or sodalities that were founded or participated in by Indigenous people of varied origins. She argues that these funeral rituals in colonial urban contexts give crucial information to understand past and present emancipatory Indigenous modes of resistance against colonial and postcolonial oppression.

Audrey Reeves, an assistant professor of political science and a core faculty member of ASPECT, will research the work of activists, artists, and curators involved in the project of “decolonizing” museums and memorials in the United States. Her research, which focuses on activism directed at heritage sites commemorating armed conflicts from World War II onward, looks at museums and world politics and considers the role of museum visits in shaping prevalent understandings of legitimate warfare.

Balbir K. Singh, an assistant professor of religion and culture and a core faculty member of ASPECT, will conduct research for a book she in writing on the visual culture, opacity, and the body politics of Muslims, Sikhs, and other minoritarian subjects under the rise of global Islamophobia and contemporary surveillance culture. As part of her Juneteenth Scholars project, she will study the politics of hair, race, nature, and the sacred through different sites of analysis, including The Crown (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act, in combating hair-based discrimination. She will also examine the maintenance of long hair by diasporic Sikhs and Native peoples, as well as contemporary art by Black, Brown, and Indigenous artists who use hair as material in their work. 

Philip Yaure, an assistant professor of philosophy, will continue his work on Frederick Douglass’ Abolitionist Republicanism. He will complete a critical examination of Douglass’ account of American citizenship as the basis for a pluralistic, inclusive republicanism.


2020–2021 Scholars


Members of the 2020–2021 cohort of Juneteenth Scholars have completed their research.

Amaryah Shaye Armstrong, an assistant professor of religion and culture, explored political and theological visions of justice, with a focus on the apocalyptic political theology of W. E. B. Du Bois as a way to imagine Black futures beyond current forms of white supremacy.

Andrea Baldwin, an assistant professor of sociology, focused on the history of Black suffering and resistance and the role of higher education in developing corrective and prescriptive measures in care and healing.

Brandy Faulkner, the Gloria D. Smith Professor of Black Studies in the Department of Political Science, examined the effectiveness — including issues of motivation, organizing strategies, and political efficacy — of student-led movements advocating for social and political change.

Lucien Holness, an assistant professor of history, researched the Boston Anti-Man Hunting League — a secret society that rescued captured runaway slaves — to learn whether there are any direct links between Black-led fugitive slave rescues, the formation of Black militias, and Black regiments raised during the Civil War.

Allan Lumba, an assistant professor of history, focused on conditions between the 1870s and the 1890s that led to the eventual emergence of Jim Crow laws, aggression toward Asian workers migrating into the United States, the last military engagement with Native American resistance, and the subsequent colonization of territories in the Pacific, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

Desirée Poets, an assistant professor of political science, explored the impact of COVID-19, racial injustice, and community organizing in the Maré favela complex of Rio de Janeiro, with the goal of advancing understanding of processes of democratic social change.

Edward Anthony Polanco, an assistant professor of history, researched the history of Black men and women in Mexican colonial society as they worked with, and at times against, indigenous people to survive and resist Spanish oppression and racism.