American Democracy Project

The Warren Center has initiated the American Democracy Project, with the objective to explore connections between scholars and scholarly work in American history, and the possibilities for application of historical insights in the realms of public discourse and policy.

The Warren Center American Democracy Project includes support of the following.

Kerri Arsenault (Fellow of the Charles Warren, 2022-23)
         Kerri Arsenault is a book critic, contributing editor at Orion magazine, and the author of Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains, a nonfiction book about family and environmental legacies. Mill Town won the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Maine Literary Award for nonfiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Leonard Prize and a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her writing has also appeared in publications such as Freeman’s, the Boston Globe, The Paris Review, the New York Review of Books, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. For 2023, Arsenault will also be a fellow at the Science History Institute and at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Germany, where she will work on two biography projects. Arsenault’s primary interest orbits around the lives of ordinary people and their intersection with waste, pollutants, and toxicities.

Marc Parry (Fellow of the Charles Warren, 2022-23)
         Marc Parry is an independent journalist working on a book about America’s war over the memory of slavery (under contract with Liveright). He previously spent more than a decade as a reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education, where he wrote about racial equity and scholarly research. His series of articles about universities’ role in the nation’s reckoning with slavery has been cited by NPR, The Washington Post, and The New York Times and featured in the book Facing Georgetown’s History (Georgetown, 2021). He makes humanities and social science debates accessible to a broad audience by exploring scholars’ personal motivations and paying attention to the larger stakes. The Education Writers Association honored him with national awards for investigative reporting and feature writing. He has written for The Guardian, The New York Times, and other outlets. He earned a BA in literature from the University of Michigan and an MS in journalism from Columbia University.

Alexandria Russell (Fellow of the Charles Warren, 2022-23)
         Alexandria Russell is the Digital Humanities Research Fellow for Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery at the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. She earned her Ph.D. in History from the University of South Carolina and Bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Secondary Education from the College of Charleston. Her forthcoming book project with University of Illinois Press, Sites Seen and Unseen: Mapping African American Women’s Public History, is a national study that examines the evolution of African American women’s public commemorations in the United States from the late nineteenth century to the present.  Her article, “‘In Them She Built Monuments’: Celia Dial Saxon and American Memory,” in the Journal of African American History examines the life and legacy of South Carolina’s most memorialized Black woman. Alexandria has previously worked on Capitol Hill for Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (SC-06), as a middle school educator in South Carolina, and as a Teacher Ranger Teacher with the National Park Service.  She has received the W.E.B. DuBois Center Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, as well as Emory University’s Rose Library Research Fellowship in support of her research on African American memorialization.   

Kyera Singleton (Fellow of the Charles Warren, 2022-23)
         Kyera Singleton is the Executive Director of the Royall House and Slave Quarters. She is also a PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in the Department of American Culture Before joining the Warren Center as an American Democracy Fellow, she held prestigious academic fellowships from the Beinecke Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Emory University’s James Weldon Johnson Institute for the Study of Race and Difference, and the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

From 2018 through 2019, Kyera served as the Humanity in Action Policy Fellow for the ACLU of Georgia. As a policy fellow, and under the mentorship of Andrea Young, she focused on mass incarceration, reproductive justice, and voting rights. She created the ACLU-GA’s first podcast series “Examining Justice” in order to highlight the voices of both community activists and policy makers in the fight for racial, gender, and transformative justice.

As a public history scholar, Kyera recently served as an advisor on the Boston Art Commission’s Recontextualization Subcommittee for the bronze Emancipation Group Statue. She is also a member of the Board of Public Humanities Fellows at Brown University, which brings together a collection of museum leaders from Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

Bench Ansfield (Fellow of the Charles Warren, 2021-22)
         Bench Ansfield is a historian of racial capitalism and twentieth-century U.S. cities. They completed their PhD in American Studies at Yale University, where their dissertation was the recipient of the Theron Rockwell Field Prize, the university's highest honor (along with the Porter Prize). Their book project, Born in Flames: Arson, Racial Capitalism, and the Reinsuring of the Bronx in the Late Twentieth Century, examines the wave of arson-for-profit that coursed through the Bronx and scores of other U.S. cities in the 1970s. Popular memory tends to confuse the arson wave with the 1960s uprisings, yet these fires were lit not for protest, but for profit, most of which flowed into the ironically named FIRE industries—finance, insurance, and real estate. By asking why cities went up in flames in these years, how their fires were extinguished, and what arose in their ashes, the project casts new light on the restructuring of U.S. cities since 1968. The book's first chapter won the Organization of American Historians’ (OAH) Pelzer Award for the best essay in American history by a graduate student, and it was recently published in the Journal of American History. Ansfield's peer-edited research has also appeared in American Quarterly and Antipode, as well as in the collection, Sylvia Wynter: On Being Human as Praxis (Duke University Press, 2015), edited by Katherine McKittrick.

Committed to public humanities, Ansfield worked as a researcher on the PBS-aired documentary Decade of Fire (2019), and they recently curated a digital exhibition with the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. They’ve also written for the Washington Post, Tikkun, and other popular publications. They are a longtime member of the veteran transformative justice organization Philly Stands Up, which works to develop abolitionist responses to violence and harm. Their research has been supported by a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, a Jefferson Scholars National Fellowship, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), and the Social Science Research Council (SSRC).

LaTosha Brown (Fellow of the Charles Warren, 2020-21)
         LaTosha Brown is the co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund and the BVM Capacity Building Institute. She is adamant about ensuring that all human beings have access to quality education, safety, security, peace, love and happiness. Striving daily to hear the voices of women in leadership amplified and supported, she is also working to eliminate human suffering through her vision of the Southern Black Girls & Women’s Consortium. Recognizing that her work is not rooted in strengthening political systems, governments or institutions—but in the advancement of people—LaTosha serves as an authoritative figure in the lives of thousands, if not millions. More than ever, she’s crystal clear that she is called to remind people of the power they hold within, pushing them through the birthing process of vision to manifestation.

At the intersection of social justice, political empowerment, human development and the cultural arts one will find LaTosha Brown. As a catalyst for change, thought leader and social strategist, her national and global efforts have been known to organize, inspire and catapult people into action—not just lip service—enabling them to build power and wealth for themselves and their community. Honored to receive the 2010 White House Champion of Change Award, the 2006 Spirit of Democracy Award and the Louis Burnham Award for Human Rights, it is more than evident that LaTosha is passionate about leading social change for the purpose of advancing humanity, creating a more equitable redistribution of wealth and power around the globe.

Where other leaders see nothing but poverty, despair and destitution, this 2018 Bridge Jubilee Award and Liberty Bell Award recipient sees great opportunity. To her, there is more than enough resources on the planet to comfortably sustain every human being. Affectionately known by many as a “Black Renaissance” woman, her southern roots, coupled with her global thoughts toward people, ideas and money, have opened doors for her to maximize her voice in the U.S., as well as over 30 countries abroad. In addition to being recognized as a well-respected leader in the South who has led numerous initiatives, campaigns and special projects to empower marginalized communities, LaTosha is leading several international efforts to provide training, support and funding for women-led institutions based in Guyana, Senegal, Belize and Tanzania.

Phillip Agnew (Fellow of the Charles Warren, 2019-20)
         Phillip Agnew co-founded the Dream Defenders in 2012 after the murder of Trayvon Martin and has been dubbed “one of this generation’s leading voices” and recognized by both EBONY magazine and The Root as one of the 100 most influential African Americans in the nation. Phillip emerged as a national activist when he helped to organize students from FAMU, Florida State University and Tallahassee Community College in the creation of the Student Coalition for Justice, which was formed in response to the Martin Lee Anderson case. His work in community organizing and art has been highlighted on MSNBC, BET’s “Rest in Power”, PBS, the Huffington Post, USA Today, the Guardian, Democracy Now, ESSENCE, TruthOut and Time Magazine. In 2018, he transitioned from his role as co-director of the Dream Defenders and now travels the country training and organizing where “the movement” hasn’t touched. He is the co-founder of Miami’s Smoke Signals Studio – a community based radical artistic space - with his partner, poet Aja Monet.  Smoke Signals Studio is a space where those invested in using art, sound and music as a meeting place for transformation and liberation can come to create together. He is a nationally recognized educator, strategist, trainer, speaker and cultural critic.  He has spoke at colleges and conferences around the country and was a featured speaker at TedxWomen and SXSW in 2019. Agnew is also member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and a Board Member for Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

Kaia Stern (Fellow of the Charles Warren, 2018)
        Kaia Stern is cofounder and director of the Prison Studies Project, which began at Harvard University in 2008. Her work focuses on transformative justice and education in prison. Her first book, Voices from American Prisons: Faith, Education and Healing was published by Routledge (2014). Recognized as a national expert, her contribution to the Greenhaven Prison Program at Vassar College, Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, Vera Institute of Justice, Kings County District Attorney’s Office, The Riverside Church, Open Society Institute, Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice at Harvard Law School, Boston University’s Prison Education Program, Concord Prison Outreach, and the U.S. Department of Justice has facilitated work with numerous schools and prisons in various states for the last twenty-five years. She is currently a Faculty Fellow in the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History at Harvard University and Visiting Faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she leads the Transformative Justice Series. Kaia is ordained as an interfaith minister, holds a doctorate in religion from Emory University, and an M.A. of theological studies from the Harvard Divinity School.

Nicholas Estes (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2017-18)
        Nick Estes is Kul Wicasa from the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. In 2014 he co-founded The Red Nation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Red Nation is a Native-led political organization committed to revitalizing Indigenous kinship relations and combatting anti-Indigenous violence in all its manifestations, whether from police or prisons, discrimination in off-reservation spaces, or against Native women, youth, and LGTBQ2 relatives.

Estes is currently a doctoral candidate in American studies at the University of New Mexico. His forthcoming book Our History is the Future: Mni Wiconi and Native Liberation, which tells the story of the historical and political context of the struggle to stop the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, will be published by Verso in 2018. Estes’ reporting on border town violence against Natives in white-dominated settlements ringing Indian reservations has won awards and national recognition. His advocacy and research focuses on traditions of Indigenous resistance, the histories and politics of anti-colonial struggle, abolition, decolonization, and anti-capitalism.

Vivek Bald (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2017-18)
        Vivek Bald is a scholar, writer, and documentary filmmaker whose work focuses on histories of migration and diaspora, particularly from the South Asian subcontinent. He is the author of Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America (Harvard University Press, 2013), and co-editor, with Miabi Chatterji, Sujani Reddy, and Manu Vimalassery of The Sun Never Sets: South Asian Migrants in an Age of U.S. Power (NYU Press, 2013). His films include "Taxi-vala/Auto-biography," (1994) which explored the lives, struggles, and activism of New York City taxi drivers from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and "Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music" (2003) a hybrid music documentary/social documentary about South Asian youth, music, and anti-racist politics in 1970s-90s Britain. Bald is currently working on a transmedia project aimed at recovering the histories of peddlers and steamship workers from British colonial India who came to the United States under the shadows of anti-Asian immigration laws and settled within U.S. communities of color in the early 20th century. The project consists of the Bengali Harlem book as well as a documentary film, “In Search of Bengali Harlem,” (currently in production), and a digital oral history website in development at

Justin Hansford (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2016-17)
       Justin Hansford is an activist, lawyer, law professor, and is currently a democracy project fellow at Harvard University's Charles Warren Center. He has a B.A. from Howard University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where he was a founder of The Georgetown Journal of Law and Modern Critical Race Perspectives. He joined the Saint Louis University law faculty after clerking for Judge Damon Keith on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and he has received a prestigious Fulbright Scholar award to study the legal career of Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Tef Poe (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2016-17)
        Tef Poe is an American rapper, musician and activist. He is one of the co-founders of the Hands Up United movement.Tef has consistently advocated grass-roots involvement in improving the lives of African Americans and in racial justice within and outside the United States. In his art and activism, he insists on the value of local people taking charge of conversations about their own communities rather than relying on national organizations. 

Ann Jones (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2015-16) 
        Ann Jones is an independent scholar, journalist, photographer, and the author of ten books of nonfiction. She received a PhD   in English and history from the University of Wisconsin. Her work focuses on women and other underdogs and on the historical/social/political structures that perpetuate injustice. She has written  extensively about violence against women in the U.S. (Women Who Kill; Next Time She’ll Be Dead); reported from Afghanistan (Kabul in Winter), Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East (War is Not Over When It’s Over) on the impact of war upon civilians; and embedded with U.S. forces in Afghanistan to report the damage done to them (They Were Soldiers). Widely published, her articles currently appear most often in The Nation and online at She is working on reflections on life in Norway (rated the best place to be a woman), Afghanistan (the worst), and the U.S.  Her work has received generous support from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, and the U.S.-Norway Fulbright Foundation.

Max Kenner (Fellow of the Charles Warren Center, 2013-14; Bard College Executive Vice-President for Institutional Initiatives, Founder and Executive Director of the Bard Prison Initiative). 
        The Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) is the largest college-in-prison program in the United States.  It enrolls 250 incarcerated college students in associate and bachelor’s degree granting programs across New York State.  The Consortium for the Liberal Arts in Prison anchors and cultivates a growing network of colleges and universities that are restoring educational access to prisons in their respective regions. Consortium partners currently include Wesleyan University, Grinnell College, Goucher College, University of Notre Dame, with projects in-development in Kentucky, Missouri, and Washington (state).

Emancipation at 150: a series of talks on the 150th-anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (spring term, 2013).
        Alan Gilbert (University of Denver).  “Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting for Emancipation in the War for Independence.” Co-sponsored with the Center for American Political Studies.  (March 27, 2013)
        James Oakes (CUNY).  "The Scorpion's Sting:  The Irreconcilable Conflict Over Slavery." (April 16, 2013)

      Thavolia Glymph (Duke University).  "Refugees and Outlaws: Enslaved Women and the Struggle for Freedom on the Civil War's Battlefields." (April 22, 2013)

      Michael Ralph (New York University).  "The Afterlife of Slave Insurance." (April 30, 2013)

“Histories of Land, Economy, and Power,” a conference held at the Weatherhead Center on November 9-10, 2012.
        This conference gathered scholars working on the history and politics of land use in order to illuminate empirical patterns of the emergence of particular regimes of property rights in land, the role of such regimes in supporting or contesting inequality, the relationship of ownership to sovereignty – in short, the historical role of land use in elaborating political and economic systems. The conference explored moments of tension that revealed possibilities for alternative models of distribution and rights allocation.