History Faculty Member Named Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies

UNC Charlotte Associate Professor of history Christopher Cameron has been named a 2020 fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, one of 81 fellows selected from nearly 1,200 applicants to receive support totaling $4.3 million.

ACLS Fellowships are among the most prestigious research honors in the humanities. They allow scholars to devote six to 12 continuous months to full-time research and writing for a specific project. Cameron was chosen as the ACLS Oscar Handlin Fellow in American History and will receive $50,000 to support his work.

“What faculty members in the discipline of history often cherish most is time to focus solely on research,” Cameron said. “While we love being in the classroom and engaging with our colleagues on campus, there is nothing quite like having a semester or an entire year to dedicate solely to researching and writing a book. This ACLS fellowship means that I will get to finish a draft of a book I have been working on for seven years and hopefully publish it within the next two to three years.” 

Cameron’s book project, “Liberal Religion and Race in America,” explores the history of African Americans’ engagement with religious liberalism from the First Great Awakening of the 1740s to the founding of Black Lives of Unitarian Universalism in 2015. African Americans were among the founders of the first Universalist churches in the eighteenth century, created their own liberal congregations beginning in the nineteenth century, and have continually pushed Unitarians and Universalists to be more attuned to social injustices. While their numbers have been few, African Americans have been profoundly affected by and made significant contributions to American religious liberalism.

Cameron will begin writing the book in July using the research he has previously completed, as an adjustment to his research schedule in response to COVID-19 travel and social distancing restrictions. “When archives become available for visits, I plan to conduct research in Chicago, Boston, and New York to complete the manuscript,” he said.

Cameron in mid-May completed a semester as acting chair of the Department of History in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at UNC Charlotte.

Cameron has presented in the popular Personally Speaking series, where College of Liberal Arts & Sciences faculty discuss the stories behind their research and their books.

He is the author of Black Freethinkers: A History of African American Secularism (Northwestern University Press, 2019), and To Plead Our Own Cause: African Americans in Massachusetts and the Making of the Antislavery Movement (Kent State University Press, 2014) and co-editor of New Perspectives on the Black Intellectual Tradition (Northwestern University Press, 2018). His book To Plead Our Own Cause was featured in the Personally Speaking authors series, presented each year by the College with partners Atkins Library and The Dubois Center at UNC Charlotte Center City.

In a significant accomplishment, Cameron was the founding president of the African American Intellectual History Society, a non-profit scholarly organization that aims to foster dialogue about researching, writing, and teaching black thought and culture. He started the organization and its group blog Black Perspectives to provide a space for scholars in disparate fields to discuss the many aspects of teaching and researching black intellectual history. Black Perspectives posts can be found at aaihs.org.

Cameron previously received a National Endowment for the Humanities/Massachusetts Historical Society Fellowship, a Franklin Grant from the American Philosophical Society, a Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Fellowship, a Philips Library Fellowship from Peabody Essex Museum, a fellowship from the Manuscripts and Rare Book Library at Emory University, and UNC Charlotte faculty research grants. He earned his doctoral degree  in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The ACLS Fellowship program is funded primarily by ACLS’s endowment, which receives support from esteemed institutions and individuals including The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Arcadia Charitable Trust, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the ACLS Research University Consortium and college and university Associates, past fellows, and friends of ACLS.

“As we continue to navigate the unpredictable world created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ACLS President Joy Connolly, “ACLS remains committed to supporting humanistic scholarship that contributes important perspectives to the conversations shaping our world and helps us better understand the human experiences of the past and those that will influence the years to come.”

Formed in 1919, the ACLS is a nonprofit federation of 75 national or international organizations in the humanities and related social sciences. Each society is concerned with a distinct field of study, but all are involved in the promotion of research, scholarly publication, and education.

Words: Lynn Roberson | Images: Lynn Roberson and Courtesy of Cameron