NEH Grant Preserves Family Histories of University Community’s Early African American Residents

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Lincoln University, Pa. –The University will preserve the family histories of descendants of Hinsonville or Lincoln University Village, an early African American settlement of free landowners and farmers, which formerly encompassed the campus and surrounding area, thanks to a $12,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

Hosanna Church, which was originally located in Hinsonville, is adjacent to Lincoln University. Many of its early Hinsonville members were instrumental in the founding and sustainability of Lincoln University. Photo by Shelley Mix

Last month, the NEH announced the award of $16.3 million in grant funding for 290 projects in 43 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“This grant provides an incredible opportunity to preserve and access the family histories of those who not only lived in this historic Black community, but who were instrumental in the founding and sustainability of the nation’s first degree-granting Historically Black College and University,” said Project Director Sophia Sotilleo, an associate professor and access services librarian, who wrote the grant. “This effort speaks to the mission and vision of the University as well as also emphasizes how it continues to work and collaborate with students, faculty, and the community.”

The University plans to sponsor and host a Heritage Day where participants can bring family memorabilia—including photos, funeral programs, articles, Bibles, and other family documents—to be digitized free-of-charge and also catalogued. Program consultants, who are trained in oral history interview procedures, will also conduct interviews and provide copies as well.

In addition, the event will also be integrated with a series of genealogy and oral history workshops, a speaker series, University and surrounding area walking tours, a community-wide reading campaign focusing on African American experience texts and a closing exhibit that showcases the project’s results.

“The humanities help us study our past, understand our present, and prepare for our future,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams.  “The National Endowment for the Humanities is proud to support projects that will benefit all Americans and remind us of our shared human experience.”

Article By Eric Christopher Webb ’91, Director, Office of Communications & Public Relations