AADS Receives Mellon Grant for Equity-Based Educational Programs

Posted on April 05, 2024

Two students stand in front of a downtown building with a Woolworth's sign.
AADS students stand in front of the site of the 1960 Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro.

UNC Greensboro’s African American and African Diaspora Studies (AADS) department hosted a soil collection ceremony on September 30, 2023, at the approximate site where Eugene Hairston was lynched in 1887. It was time to reclaim the land at the corner of Mendenhall and Spring Garden Streets and “grow the world we want” on the soil that is now occupied by UNCG’s campus. 

Thus began an organized educational effort led by AADS and funded by a $100,000 grant from The Mellon Foundation.  

Expanding Educational Reach 

This grant is the largest ever received by the department, which was founded in 1982. Inspired by the University’s role in Greensboro’s civil rights movement dating back to the Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-ins in 1960, AADS strives to maintain education and public discourse between UNCG and the broader Greensboro community on matters of equity and recognition of complete historical narratives about race in America.  

The Mellon grant is earmarked for equity-focused curriculum development that will broaden the reach of AADS to high school teachers and librarians in the community. UNCG faculty and students are planning forums for discussion of how to teach African American subject matter at the high school level, and development of lesson plans that are inclusive and give students a more complete understanding of where they live.  

Noelle Morrisette, AADS director and professor, refers to this education-focused initiative as “an ecology of learning and action in which to grow the world we want. Mapping, cultivating & transforming North Carolina communities starting in Greensboro and expanding throughout the state.” 

Reflecting Student Voices 

Morrisette affirms that UNCG student involvement in these programs is a priority. “Our students are excited to share the importance of what they are studying to younger students and the community at large,” she says.  

The grant will fund eight internships, which will be offered to undergraduate students with AADS majors. The internships fall into three categories: community engagement, multimedia documentation, and AADS alumni engagement.  

Community engagement interns will organize the high school forums, help build high school lesson plans, and facilitate high school field trips to the UNCG campus to learn about Black studies. Documentary interns will work on efforts like photo collections and multimedia projects that combine creativity with the Black experience. AADS alumni engagement interns will connect current students with alumni to explore ways to use their majors in various business sectors. 

“As we meet the ‘Trayvon Generation’ as well as first-generation college students in our classrooms, contend with assaults on academic freedom, and build alliances through collaboration, we strive to deepen awareness of the intersectional power that is AADS,” Morrisette explains. “This Mellon grant helps us to build those bridges.” 

Story by Becky Deakins, University Communications.
Photography by University Communications.

Oak View Elementary principal Bennie Bradley fist bumps student Ivy Bennett.

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