Warm welcomes are for a dynamic jewel of The Washington Informer (WI) family. WI monthly supplement editor, Dr. Shantella Sherman, has accomplished tremendous feats throughout her journey as a consummate journalist and editor, to a PhD historian, and author focusing on the impact of eugenics as it intersects with society, from our education to housing, popular culture, and beyond. Her tireless efforts in research and educating the masses have led her to be this year’s proud recipient of the Association for The Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) Freedom Scholar Award for 2022.
Every year the historic organization, founded in 1915 by Carter G. Woodson, searches for devout, early-year academics whose scholarship, and contributions highlight, “the empowerment of the African American community.” This year, ASALH chose the innovative historian to be honored for her dedication to supporting the mission of preserving, interpreting, and educating people with consequential information that emphasizes the existence, ascension, exploitation, culture, and history of Black people before a global audience.
“It was overwhelming quite frankly because I have always been a long-time supporter of ASALH as a public historian, meaning I don’t associate necessarily with any one university,” Dr. Sherman explained. “I always felt I didn’t have a chance to win an award with an established organization like this. The fact that they took me seriously and my work, kind of preceded all of these other things. It was overwhelming and it is an amazing honor.”
Birthed from sharecropping roots planted from the soils of Mississippi, her rich familial history and exposure to the diverse facets of Black life as it exists in southern culture and American society, influenced her unique shift into eugenic studies. Being one of few voices in the region holding such conversation from a Black American voice and perspective, Dr. Sherman’s focus of research highlights scientific racism predating the Hitler era, its origins in the United States of America, and its impact today on systems including housing, education, and pop culture as it blends its way into the state of our current society.
“I think everything past is prologue, so when you hear Clarence Thomas decide with Roe v Wade that he is going to talk about eugenics, there is a whole conversation about hereditarianism that the average person doesn’t necessarily understand. These are laws that impact us every day in education, housing, employment – anything that you can think of, pop culture, it’s all there but we don’t necessarily know it, and we don’t understand it,” Dr. Sherman told The Washington Informer. “So folks are having conversations, they are writing bills, they are giving sermons in our faces that as African Americans, we don’t understand the language of what is being said, and so we are in some instances signing off on policies as leaders – not understanding this has a very tragic and terrible history for us.”
An author in the academic, and literary space, Dr. Sherman’s research spawned the publishing of two major works, “In Search of Purity: Eugenics and Racial Uplift Among New Negros,” a dissertation examining the reinterpretation of eugenic theories by Black scholars, and “Pop-Eu: Popular Eugenics In Television & Film,” and a recurring quarterly released print publication, titled ACUMEN Magazine. She gleams at the profound nobility she finds in preserving the voices and stories of those who selflessly fought for ineradicable freedom, equity, and quality of life, for Black Americans far and wide.
“The people who are often forgotten. We talk about, for instance, Dr. King, and not to put a drag on that, but we don’t talk about the Fannie Lou Hammers and some of the everyday, average people who lost their lives, their homes, their livelihoods fighting this same fight. And so I wanted to try to bring those voices to the forefront,” said Dr. Sherman.
And bolstering the voices of those before her, she indeed has. The Washington Informer wishes Dr. Sherman our loudest applause, praise, and cheer for your stellar scholarship, leadership, and generosity as you continue to show others along your path. Job well done.