Jones earns fellowship to explore 'America in Africa'

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Jones earns fellowship to explore 'America in Africa'

Jeannette Jones
Craig Chandler | University Communication
Jeannette Eileen Jones has earned a fellowship from American Council of Learned Societies.

Jeannette Eileen Jones feels like she’s been given the gift of time.

Jones, associate professor of history and ethnic studies, has earned a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. The fellowship awards a $50,000 stipend, which will help support the writing of her next book, “America in Africa: U.S. Empire, Race and the African Question, 1821-1919.”

“I will be able to concentrate 100 percent on this book for a full year,” Jones said. “Having that freedom is wonderful.”

Through the fellowship, Jones will take the spring and fall 2020 semesters to write the book, which is slated to be published by Yale University Press in 2021.

Jones is one of 81 fellows, selected by their peers from more than 1,100 applicants. Fellows are selected “based on their potential to make an original and significant contribution to knowledge,” according to the American Council of Learned Societies.

“America in Africa” will examine closely the United States’ diplomatic relations with African countries and imperial powers that colonized Africa during the 19th century and into the early 20th century, and how the United States was engaged in the African Question – the political discourse surrounding Africa and its place in the world from an American and Eurocentric perspective.

Very little historical research has looked at the United States’ relationship with Africa as part of a broader history of U.S. expansion and empire during this period, Jones said.

“The conventional wisdom has been that American empire is primarily about settler colonialism in North America and its expansion through territorial acquisitions,” she said. “Many scholars have seen Africa as mostly impacted by European imperialism, not paying attention to the United States’ policy towards Africa.

“It’s seen as a footnote or one-off, and I’m arguing that it’s not. The United States may not have had formal territories in Africa, but that does not mean that it was not deeply engaged in the African question and also thinking about where Africa would fit into (the United States’) own place in the world, as an emerging global power.”

This book is a follow-up to her 2010 volume, “In Search of Brightest Africa: Reimagining the Dark Continent in American Culture, 1884-1936.” While researching “Brightest Africa,” Jones discovered much correspondence between early American diplomats and their counterparts in Europe and realized there were patterns of political discourse that have not been studied.

“I never knew how large the United States’ consular service was in Africa during this period, and I thought that was interesting and I wanted to unpack it,” Jones said.