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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.
Helton's most recent scholarship is a co-edited special issue of African American Review devoted to the Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile Arturo Schomburg. Her 2019 article, “On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading," won the Donald G. Davis Article Award from the American Library Association and the Maria Stewart Journal Article Prize from the African American Intellectual History Society. Her research has been supported by fellowships from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Scholars-in-Residence Program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Center for Humanities & Information at Penn State, the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia, and the Bibliographical Society of America. 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.
Anthropology, Barnard College; M.A. History, New York University;
M.L.I.S. Library & Information Studies, Rutgers University; Ph.D.
History, New York University
Articles and Book Chapters
“Schomburg's Library and the Price of Black History," African American Review 54, nos. 1 & 2 (Spring/Summer 2021): 109-128.
“Arturo Alfonso Schomburg in the Twenty-First Century: An Introduction," with Rafia Zafar (guest editors), African American Review 54, nos. 1 & 2 (Spring/Summer 2021): 1-18.
“Library Archaeology: Reconstructing a Catalog of the Arthur A. Schomburg Book and Pamphlet Collection," with Alice Adamczyk, Miranda Mims, and Matthew Murphy, African American Review 54, nos. 1 & 2 (Spring/Summer 2021): 91-108.
“Black Bibliographers and the Category of Negro Authorship," in African American Literature in Transition, 1900-1910, ed. Shirley Moody-Turner (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press): 23-47.
Review of Shadow Archives: Life Cycles of African American Literature, by Jean-Christophe Cloutier, Modernism/modernity 28, no. 2 (April 2021): 383-385.
“Archive," in Information Keywords, ed. Michele Kennerly, Samuel Frederick, and Jonathan Abel (New York: Columbia University Press, 2021): 44-56.
“On Decimals, Catalogs, and Racial Imaginaries of Reading," PMLA 134, no. 1 (January 2019): 99-120.
“Making Lists, Keeping Time: Infrastructures of Black Thought, 1900-1950," in Against a Sharp White Background: Infrastructures of African American Print, ed. Brigitte Fielder and Jonathan Senchyne (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2019): 82-108.
Review of Diasporic Blackness: The Life and Times of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, by Vanessa K. Valdés, The American Literary History Online Review XIX, June 19, 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 Quarterly 52, no. 1 (Fall 2014): 155-172.
“Low-Wage Legacies, Race, and the Golden Chicken in Mississippi: Where Contemporary Immigration Meets African American Labor History," with Angela Stuesse, Southern Spaces (December 31, 2013).
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