Dr. David Norman received our 2022 Denmark Project Award to conduct research on post-colonial Inuit arts and their critical relevance to global art movements. Dr. Norman’s work historicizes the continuity between Greenlandic artists who used art as a way of political activism before 1979 and the contemporary artists who challenged stereotypical views of Greenlandic arts in the 1980s and 1990s. On his return to the United States, David will work on his current book-in-progress, Home Rule Contemporary: Experimental Art and Self-Determination in Kalaallit Nunaat, which seeks to position Greenlandic art in the center of contemporary art history.
Cheyenne Jansdatter, the Archival Collections Manager of the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa, will work to develop the Danish American Archival Networking Experience (DAANE), an online digital archive that will connect three Danish American archives in the U.S and several institutions in Denmark with archival holdings that are relevant to the Danish American experience. Cheyenne hopes the project will result in increased collaboration and shared content, such as online exhibits.
The 2020 award went to James Budinich. James will be working with the Royal Danish Academy of Music to conduct research on the Danish composer Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen and the Danish New Simplicity movement during the 1960s. He is also developing a composition for vocalist and chamber ensemble based on the work “Third-Millennium Heart” by Danish poet Ursula Andkjær Olsen. James hopes his research on the New Simplicity movement will build a bridge to new audiences through accessible compositions in which every listener, regardless of musical experience, can discover their own understanding and appreciation.
This year’s award went to Cameron Turley, of City University of New York. Cameron is studying Inuit settlements and their relationship to ethnogenesis in Greenland. His award will help to provide access to archival materials and local scholars, allowing him to further enrich his studies. Upon completion of his project, Cameron plans to pursue an archeological career in Greenland.
The 2018 award went to Earl Hodil (Yale) to help fund his research surrounding the complex political and commercial relationships between Denmark and Russia in the early 17th century, a topic that has been understudied in the current literature on the region. Earl plans to incorporate this research into a larger series of publishable works upon completing his PhD in History at Yale University.
Lynn R. Wilkinson
This year’s award went to University of Texas professor Lynn R. Wilkinson to support final research for her book on Danish writer and cultural figure Emma Gad. Complementing Lynn’s earlier works on Anne Charlotte Leffler, a nineteenth century Swedish playwright, this book on Emma Gad will explore the writer’s role as a dramatist, journalist, hostess, and pioneering feminist in Denmark at the turn of the twentieth century. Despite Gad’s enormous success during her time, her works are not as widely read today. Wilkinson hopes to bring attention to this often overlooked historical figure and demonstrate the importance of female cultural influencers in Scandinavia during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
This award supported the completion of Steve Giovinco’s photo series Inertia. Photographed in southern Greenland, this series documents changes to land, ice and communities through images of the country’s ice-scarred earth, shrinking glaciers and modern and ancient human settlements. Taken at dawn, twilight or nighttime, these haunting images remind the viewer of the impact of human history on the land, and should “crystallize a feeling of inertia taking place in the primordial landscape of Greenland.” Visit Steve’s website here, and see his blog post “Capturing Changing Environment, Haunting Beauty of Melting Glaciers in Greenland” to see a preview of his project Inertia.
In support of her research on African American and women’s history, specifically the history of African Americans in Denmark. Intended as a combination travel memoir and history, this work interweaves her own experiences in Denmark with the experiences of other African Americans who traveled, studied, and lived there during the last 100 years. Whitmire has published Regina Anderson Andrews: Harlem Renaissance Librarian (UIP, 2014) and is working on a book on Ethel Ray Nance (1899-1992), an African American/Swedish woman who broke racial barriers and worked with WEB Du Bois and Charles S Johnson.
This eighth of twelve portraits in 2017, honoring alumni from thirty years of Roth Foundation programs, features a recent award winner. Ethelene Whitmire won our support for research she conducted in Denmark in 2015-16. She is a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison who focuses on American studies and African American women’s history. Here she recounts how she got interested in the project that took her to Denmark for a book on the experience of the important African American expatriate community there.
I became interested in my new book project, Searching for Utopia: African Americans in 20th Century Denmark, in a very unusual way. I first went to Denmark on a whim in May and June 2010. I was on the first sabbatical leave from my job as a university professor and was finishing my first book, Regina Anderson Andrews, Harlem Renaissance Librarian (2014). I wanted to go on a writing retreat in another country—and selected Denmark because I was watching a lot of Danish films at the time. I didn’t know anyone there. So I rented an apartment in the Christianshavn section of Copenhagen, met a ton of people… and I loved it! Since then, I have returned to Copenhagen twelve times, including every summer.
While renting an apartment in the Nørrebro neighborhood in the summer of 2013, I would take a shortcut through the Assistens Kirkegaard cemetery, where Hans Christian Andersen is buried. On the way back home one day, I encountered the grave of Ben Webster. I was curious about why a clearly non-Danish person was buried there. When I looked him up on the internet I was surprised to discover that he was a famous African American jazz musician and that there were several African American jazz musicians buried all over the city. During and between subsequent visits, I started gathering other information about African Americans who visited, lived, studied and performed in Denmark. I was intrigued and wanted to know more. Two research questions guided me: Why did African Americans go to Denmark? And what were their experiences while there?
Many have written books about African Americans in France, mainly in Paris; but the experience of African Americans in Denmark remains unexplored. So, about three years ago, I decided I would write a book on the subject. In 2015, I received grants from the American Scandinavian Foundation, which allowed me to conduct research and follow in the footsteps of the African Americans all over Denmark. I went to Kerteminde to see where painter William H. Johnson lived and worked. I caught the train to Helsingør to visit the archives at the International People’s College, where many African Americans went in the 1930s to study the Danish folk school and cooperative movements. I searched through the archives of expatriates at the Royal Danish Library and in the Danish National Archives.
This research represents a very new direction for me—one I feel very passionate about. Formerly, I was an administrator in higher education working at Rutgers University in New Jersey, during which time I earned a master’s degree in Library Service. I left Rutgers to pursue a PhD in Higher Education at the University of Michigan, after which I became a professor in the field of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. While conducting an ethnographic study of African Americans in public libraries in Los Angeles, supported by a Ford Foundation fellowship, I came across an article about African American librarians in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance.
Fascinated, I then researched and wrote a book on the librarian Regina Anderson Andrew. This introduced me to the field of African American history and my interest in archival research and recovery work—uncovering the stories of people lost to history. One of the things that interested me in Andrews’ life—aside from her being an actress and playwright during the Harlem Renaissance—was that, as a representative of a civic organization called the National Council of Women of the United States, she travelled abroad to Germany, Brazil, Asia, the Middle East and several Western African nations. This got me very curious about the transnational experiences of African Americans.
Upon returning from my summer 2015 research trip to Denmark, I was delighted and surprised to learn that I had been awarded a Project Support award from the Lois Roth Foundation. This allowed me to return to Denmark the following January to do additional research—including interviews with the widows and children of certain expatriates. The recognition and support represented by this Roth Foundation award was key in helping me earn a Fulbright award to return to Denmark in fall 2016.
That semester, I was a visiting scholar at the University of Copenhagen’s Center for Transnational American Studies and gave a keynote address at a university symposium on “Denmark and African American Culture.” At that symposium, I met an earlier recipient of a Roth Foundation award—Heidi Durrow, author of the novel The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, was the other keynote speaker! Receiving the support of ASF and the Roth Foundation opened doors; my Fulbright year then gave me great opportunities to share my work. During the 2016-2017 academic year, I ended up presenting talks not only at other venues in Denmark, but also in South Africa and Austria… and this fall I will bring it back to the U.S., in an October talk at the conference of the Danish American Heritage Society in Schaumburg, Illinois.
This text evolved from a written interview with Ethelene Whitmire conducted by Skyler Arndt-Briggs. Thanks to Drew Barnhart, our Media and Outreach Manager, for producing our August Portrait.
Project on the Danish-American literary press and transnational identity, beginning when Americans “discovered” Scandinavia through international travel at the end of the 19th-century. Her Roth Foundation award will help Vogelius complete her research for scholarly articles and a book on the relations between the Danish literary press and American publishers.
Project on the group of avant-garde Danish artists that coalesced around the journal Helhesten during the years of Nazi occupation and WWII. Greaves’ work debunks the theory that World War II sundered postwar European culture from pre-war avant-garde art movements. Her Roth Foundation award will help her undertake archival research required complete her dissertation, which will be the first major study of Helhesten and the first in-depth analysis on Danish art of the 1930s and 1940s in more than forty years.
The award went to accomplished translator Patrick Phillips, the director of Creative Writing at Drew University, for research on a new English translation of Knud Holmboe’s memoir Orkenen Brænder – The Burning Desert. This volume recounts the journalist’s drive across the Sahara in 1930, during which he witnessed atrocities against the Bedouin people and an attempted genocide by the colonial Italian government. Read an interview with Patrick here and visit his website to learn about all his publications to date.
This third of twelve portraits in 2017, honoring alumni from thirty years of Roth Foundation programs, features noted author Patrick Phillips. You can read about all his publications to date at www.patrickthemighty.com!
Patrick won a Project Support Award to Denmark in 2014 to help him undertake research for his next book project. He teaches creative writing, literature and literary translation at Drew University, where he also directs the Creative Writing Program. The winner of many fellowships and honors, Patrick has published three volumes of his own poetry—the most recent of which, Elegy for a Broken Machine, was a finalist for the National Book Award—and translated a volume of poetry—When We Leave Each Other: Selected Poems of Henrik Nordbrandt—from the Danish.
If Patrick’s name seems familiar to you, however, it may be for his first book of nonfiction, Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, which has been garnering a great deal of attention, including in a PBS Newshour piece that aired on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In gripping prose, the volume chronicles the tragic history of Forsyth County, Georgia, where Patrick grew up. While lynching was not uncommon in Georgia in the early 20th century, the 1912 murder of a white girl in Forsyth led to a coordinated campaign of arson and terror that drove all 1098 black citizens from the county. In the wake of the expulsions, whites harvested the crops and took over the livestock of their former neighbors, quietly laying claim to “abandoned” land. Building on his own childhood experience, Patrick documents the violent means by which locals kept Forsyth “all white” well into the 1990s.
In retrospect, the publication of Blood at the Root sheds a new light on Patrick’s next project, which he researched in Denmark in summer 2014: a new English translation of journalist Knud Holmboe’s Orkenen Brænder (The Burning Desert). Holmboe’s memoir recounts his drive across the Sahara in 1930, during which he witnessed atrocities against the Bedouin people and an attempted genocide by the colonial Italian government. In his project description, Patrick noted: “As a convert to Islam and one of the first Europeans to live and travel among the Bedouins, Holmboe offers us a rare, ground-level look at the brutal mechanisms of colonial power, as well as a voice of dissent too often lost to history.”
This month, Patrick was gracious enough to share a few thoughts about his work with us. (Read the entire interview on our website.) Here are some excerpts:
“I think my two prose projects are deeply related, in that they both grew out of my fascination with hidden history: shocking, monumental, and once widely-known events that over the course of time have been erased. Both books are accounts of atrocities: Blood at the Root tells of the expulsion of the entire African American community of Forsyth County, Georgia, where I was raised, and The Burning Desert documents the attempted genocide of Bedouin people by the colonial Italian army.
“As far as chronology, I have been thinking about the story of Forsyth County’s black community since I was seven years old. I started actively researching the book about a decade ago. During this same period I learned about The Burning Desert from a writer and translator named Andre Naffis-Sahely, who knew many Moroccans who revere Holmboe for telling the world about the genocide in North Africa—a bravery that cost Holmboe his life. Andre reached out to me in hopes that a new translation could bring fresh attention to the book and to that history.
“What links the two projects, beyond the appalling crimes committed against vulnerable people, is that both events have been almost totally erased from our consciousness. So a common goal of both Blood at the Root and my translation of Holmboe was to bring a buried history back to the surface. History is written by the victors, as they say, and so I wanted both books to counter that, by telling the story of the victims, and reversing that process of erasure and historical amnesia.
“I should also add that these connections are something I see only in hindsight! At the time, I was simply following my curiosity and trying to make myself useful. But clearly one project was influencing the other, and I have no doubt that I was deeply influenced by Holmboe’s drive to expose an atrocity—and to honor the dead by telling their stories.
“The support of the Roth Foundation was absolutely essential to my work on Holmboe, particularly because it came during the very early stages of the project. The grant I received from the Endowment helped support a month I spent in Copenhagen, where I got my conversational Danish back up to speed; spent time in the Kongelige Bibliotek reading Holmboe’s work as a journalist; and devoted long days to translating the text of The Burning Desert.
“Translation is always a labor of love, and that means the translator can often feel very lonely: like the only person in the world who cares about a given author or text, and like someone laboring for very little reward and attention. But receiving a grant meant that for the first time I could take my own interest in Holmboe seriously. Someone else had given that work a vote of confidence and a push forward, which meant the world to me. So everyone at the Roth Foundation has my deepest gratitude!
“To me, the message of the award was simple but absolutely vital: keep going.”
This alumni portrait was drafted by Roth Foundation chair, Skyler J. Arndt-Briggs, based on a short interview with Patrick Phillips. Thanks to Drew Barnhart, our Media and Outreach Manager, for producing this third 2017 alumni portrait!
Interview With Author Patrick Phillips
Conducted by Skyler J. Arndt-Briggs, March 2017
SAB: I am curious about the relationships, if any, that exist for you between your two nonfiction projects, Blood at the Root and the translation of Knud Holmboe’s Burning Desert. How are the two projects related chronologically? Were you working on Blood at the Root when you came upon and decided to translate Holmboe’s memoir?
PP: I think that the two projects are deeply related, in that they both grew out of my fascination with hidden history: shocking, monumental, and once widely- known events that over the course of time have been erased. Both books are accounts of atrocities: Blood at the Root tells of the expulsion of the entire African American community of Forsyth County, Georgia, where I was raised, and The Burning Desert documents the attempted genocide of Bedouin people by the colonial Italian army.
As far as chronology, I have been thinking about the story of Forsyth County’s black community since I was seven years old, and actively researching the book for about a decade. During this same period I learned about The Burning Desert from a writer and translator named Andre Naffis-Sahely, who knew many Moroccans who revere Holmboe for telling the world about the genocide in North Africa—a bravery that cost Holmboe his life. Andre reached out in hopes that a new translation could bring fresh attention to the book and to that history.
SAB: While both Blood at the Root and Burning Desert demand a historical archaeology, the former was clearly a personal project for you (rooted in your years in Forsyth as a young person), while Burning Desert recounts events that took place half a world away. Do you feel that similar or different things drew you to each project?
PP: I love that phrase “historical archaeology,” and that’s very much what I felt I was doing in both cases. What links the two projects, beyond the appalling crimes committed against vulnerable people, is that both events have been almost totally erased from our consciousness. So a goal common to both Blood at the Root and my translation of Holmboe was to bring a buried history back to the surface. History is written by the victors, as they say, and so I wanted both books to counter that, by telling the story of the victims, and reversing that process of erasure and historical amnesia.
I should also add that these connections are something I see only in hindsight! At the time, I was simply following my curiosity and trying to make myself useful. But clearly one project was influencing the other, and I have no doubt that I was deeply influenced by Holmboe’s drive to expose an atrocity—and to honor the dead by telling their stories.
SAB: As an accomplished poet, how does it feel to be working on these two major prose works? Do you feel you get different things out of each form? Or that each brings out different things in you?
PP: Because I have spent most of my adult life working as a poet, I struggled to believe that I could write a long-form book of nonfiction, or translate one. But in the face of that self-doubt, the best thing is to simply carry on: to keep working every day and try to ignore all the questions about whether it will add up to something.
Instead, I taught myself how to write prose as I was working, and I do think that translating Holmboe’s writing was a great boost to my confidence. The wonderful thing about translating is that the translator gets to write without having to invent. You get to work out all the mental muscles that shape precise, elegant sentences, but are freed from the anxiety of what to say.
I think all those years I labored in the fields of poetry were also invaluable, in that poetry teaches compression, concision, and the power of the singular, well- chosen detail. Now that I’ve worked in prose and poetry, I think the distinctions we draw between them are much more professional than they are actual. I have come think of myself as a writer rather than exclusively a poet, and it is thrilling to feel that I can range into some new territory without anxiety about genre. It was also a joy to do something new because I have a short attention span and am very easily bored!
SAB: I know that you have received the support of many organizations and fellowships, so I’m sure that our small contribution to your work did not stand out. But, if there is anything you could say, we would love to hear any thoughts you might have regarding the work and mission of the Lois Roth Foundation.
PP: The support of the Roth Foundation was absolutely essential to my work on Holmboe, particularly because it came during the very early stages of the project. The grant I received from the Endowment supported a month I spent in Copenhagen, where I got my conversational Danish back up to speed; spent time in the Kongelige Bibliotek reading Holmboe’s work as a journalist; and devoted long days to translating the text of The Burning Desert.
Translation is always a labor of love, and that means the translator can often feel very lonely: like the only person in the world who cares about a given author or text, and like someone laboring for very little reward and attention. But receiving a grant meant that for the first time I could take my own interest in Holmboe seriously. Someone else had given that work a vote of confidence, and a push forward, which meant the world to me. So everyone at the Roth Foundation has my deepest gratitude!
To me, the message of the award was simple but absolutely vital: keep going.
Project: The selection, editing and translation of early 20th-century works by Georg Brandes, an influential Danish scholar and critic who wrote on national minorities, stateless people and the colonized. Banks is at the University of Wisconsin.
Project on the production, reception and distribution of design in Scandinavia and abroad from 1945 to 1960. In her University of Chicago doctoral project on Making Danish Modern: Imaging Design, Imagining a Nation, Taft explores how Danish furniture produced during these years both generated and accumulated cultural and social meanings that were mobilized in the context of the Cold War. After completing her research in Denmark, Taft was awarded the Chester Dale pre-doctoral fellowship by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery in Washington, DC.
Nigel de Juan Hatton
Project on the philosophical dimensions of creative freedom that two African-American artists found in Scandinavia. His research on William H. Johnson and Cecil Brown will support two chapters of his planned book, tentatively entitled Scandinavian Landscapes, African-American Escapes: Black Artists and Freedom in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. At the time, Hatton was at Stanford University.
Archival research and interviews for a collection of short stories about early 19th-century interracial relations between Danes, black Africans and African-Americans. While in Denmark, she read from her work at the Tell-Tale Café in Copenhagen. Durrow’s research evolved into a novel, entitled The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (2010), which won the Bellweather Prize for Fiction and became a New York Times Bestseller, an LA Times Bestseller and an Indie Next Pick. See: www.heidiwdurrow.com.
Project: to create 40 landscape-inspired diptychs inspired by the desolate landscapes of the island of Møn. While in Denmark, painter Guldbeck exhibited her work in a group show with some of Denmark’s contemporary artists; in 2007-08, the show traveled to her home campus of Bowling Green State University.
Project on nationalism in Danish art around the turn of the last century. While in Denmark, Mednick also taught at the University of Copenhagen and presented a paper in Stockholm.
RIck Anthony Furtak
Project on the stoicism of Kierkegaard, in preparation for a book entitled Truth, Love and Falsity: A Kierkegaardian Response to Stoicism. At the time, Furtak was at the University of Chicago.
Neil Christian Pages
Project on memorialization in contemporary culture, focusing on a study of Copenhagen’s Isted Lion. At the time, Pages was in the German Department at SUNY Binghamton.
*The Prix Coindreau Prize, The Jeanne Varnay Pleasants Prize for Language Teaching, and the CASVA-Henry & Judith Millon Award are currently inactive.