The Lemon Project continues to study the history of slavery at the College of William & Mary, even during the coronavirus.
“The main thing that has changed because of the coronavirus is that we did not have our in person symposium,” said Sarah Thomas, the program manager.
The program had to cancel or postpone several of its spring events including the project’s in-person symposium and the annual “Donning of the Kente,” a graduation celebration for African American students with the traditional Kente cloth.
The symposium was originally scheduled for March 19 but was canceled. The next symposium is 2021. The Donning of the Kente is rescheduled to the college’s new graduation date in October.
Thomas said the Lemon Project does not usually have in-person events in the summer but the staff is still busy preparing for next year’s symposium, applying for a grant with the college’s advancement office and responding to requests for presentations and lectures.
“Everything is pretty much happening the same, it’s just happening virtually,” Thomas said, noting her colleague, Jody Allen, the director of The Lemon Project, recently had a lecture virtually.
The Lemon Project is made up of two full-time staff members: Thomas and Allen, who also is an assistant professor of history.
The project also has a post-doctoral fellow who helps on a rotating basis.
Two graduate assistants and about 15 to 20 undergraduate and graduate volunteers also help support the Lemon Project at events.
The current post-doctoral graduate’s job ends at the end of June and they are currently in the process of hiring a replacement through a grant, with the new person starting in August. The two new graduate assistants will help with the Lemon Project in the fall.
WYDaily asked Thomas if the Lemon Project plans to hire more core staff.
The college is currently on a hiring freeze and the only reason the Lemon Project is hiring a replacement fellow is because of an outside grant, Thomas said. The core staff is two full-time people and the Lemon Project is always looking for volunteers.
“Whether or not we can expand our staffing is depending on how we are funded,” she said. “Our funding is from the provost office.”
“If we get more grants, then we can certainly expand our staff,” she added. “For the core positions, we would probably need more funding.”
As far as the graduate assistants, Thomas said “We don’t hire the graduate assistants, they are chosen by the program that they attend.”
Thomas said she does not the have details of the hiring process but said for the past two years the two graduate assistants have been chosen by the American Studies and the Anthropology departments.
So what other future plans is the Lemon Project working on?
Different research projects.
“We are working on you know a lot of different research projects,” Thomas said, but did not elaborate. “A lot of things are up in the air because we don’t know how the fall is going to pan out.”
Besides the Donning of the Kente in October and the March 2021 symposium, the Lemon Project plans to help The Village Initiative develop a curriculum for local schools on African American history.
But for now, the Lemon Project is working on developing plans for their recommendations made in April 2018, Lemon Project Report, Thomas said.
“The staffing that we have currently is the largest we’ve ever hard, the most people we’ve had working,” Thomas said. “We will be writing a report on what we’ve been doing since 2018.”
The update is expected around August.
“Today in the throes of a pandemic and the reaction to the continuing murder of unarmed African American men, women, and children, The Lemon Project operates with the understanding that history helps us both see the present more clearly and plan for the future,” according to the Lemon Project’s Statement on Current Events posted on June 2. “It helps us to see ourselves, and it helps others to see us. For example, if you know the full story, you won’t have to wonder why Black people are angry.”
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