From left. Albany State University professors Michael Decuir and Devona Mallory, Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates and ASU professors Florence Lyons and Maurice Melton pause during the local educators’ recent trip to Harvard in Cambridge, Mass.
ALBANY — Four Albany State University professors conducted research recently at Harvard and met with “Finding Your Roots” PBS television host Henry Louis Gates Jr., a scholar, literary critic, writer and editor.
The Harvard professor is also director of the university’s W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African American Research.
Florence Lyons, an associate professor in ASU’s Fine Arts department; Maurice Melton, an associate professor in History and Political Science; Devona Mallory, an assistant professor in English, Modern Languages and Mass Communication, and Michael Decuir, an assistant professor in the university’s Fine Arts department, visited Harvard libraries, which house archival materials spanning a wide range of fields and disciplines.
While at Harvard, the ASU professors investigated theater, literature, maritime pilots and the Harlem Renaissance.
Lyons’ research focused on 19th-century blackface and addressed how minstrels utilized blackface songs and jokes to demean suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
“The bulk of my research was conducted at the Houghton Library, which houses the Harvard Theatre Collection, the oldest theater collection in the country.
“Due to Harvard’s extensive collection, I was able to peruse minstrel playbills, jokes and songs,” Lyons said.
Mallory researched vestiges of the “witch and goddess” concept in women’s literature.
Melton investigated African-American maritime pilots in the southern shipping trade, and Decuir researched W.E.B. Dubois and Alain Locke’s opposing views about the arts during the Harlem Renaissance.
“I was impressed with the extent of Harvard’s archival materials in my area of research as well as that of my colleagues,” said Decuir.
The Title III grant was earmarked for Harvard research by an ASU faculty learning community.
The faculty learning community is the outgrowth of a collaboration between professors who taught student learning communities at ASU.