Participant Info

First Name
Last Name
University of Delaware
Website URL
Archival Studies, African American history & literature, Public humanities, Memory, Gender, Intellectual history, Collecting and collections, Queer archives, Bibliography, Libraries
Additional Contact Information

Personal Info

About Me

Laura Helton specializes in American literature and history of the twentieth century, with an emphasis on African American print culture and public humanities. Her research and teaching interests include archival studies, memory and material culture, gender and sexuality, and literary practices of the black freedom struggle. Her current book project, Collecting and Collectivity: Black Archival Publics, 1900-1950, examines the emergence of African American archives and libraries to show how historical recuperation shaped forms of racial imagination in the early twentieth century. Professor Helton is the co-editor of a special issue of Social Text on “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive” (December 2015); her work on the Howard University curator Dorothy Porter is forthcoming in PMLA.  She has held fellowships at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia (2013-2015) and at the Center for Humanities & Information at Penn State (2015-2017). In 2016, she was awarded the Zuckerman Prize in American Studies from the McNeil Center of the University of Pennsylvania, awarded for the best dissertation connecting American history to literature or art in any period. Professor Helton’s interest in the social history of archives arose from her earlier career as an archivist. She has surveyed and processed collections that document the civil rights era, women’s movement, and American radicalism for several cultural institutions, including the Mississippi Digital Library, Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, CityLore, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Recent Publications

“On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading,” PMLA (forthcoming Winter 2019).

“The Question of Recovery: An Introduction,” with Justin Leroy, Max Mishler, Samantha Seeley, and Shauna Sweeney, Social Text 33, no. 3 (December 2015): 1-18.

“Legacies of Freedom Summer in the Classroom,” with Deborah McDowell, Nicole Burrowes, and LaTasha Levy, Southern Quarterly52, no. 1 (Fall 2014): 155-172.

Media Coverage
Country Focus
United States
Expertise by Geography
United States
Expertise by Chronology
19th century, 20th century
Expertise by Topic
Gender, Museums, Public History, Race, Women