Learn More

Huron’s Research Fellowship in African-Canadian History Celebrates Local Blacks’ Rights Advocate

Feb 23 2021

Huron is proud to announce that Deirdre McCorkindale has been awarded the 2021-22 Huron Doctoral Research Fellowship in African Canadian History, recognizing her significant contributions to community-based research and advocacy. Offered through the Huron History Department, the Research Fellowship supports Huron’s and the department’s institutional commitment to addressing anti-Black racism and builds on the university’s efforts to more effectively reflect our nation’s diversity

The past year witnessed the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States following the horrifying but sadly familiar murder of George Floyd. Black Lives Matter has spurred Huron to do more to combat anti-black sentiment and the Huron Doctoral Research Fellowship in African Canadian History is one part of the university’s broader efforts to dismantle systemic racism.

In addition to a research stipend to support dissertation work, the fellowship provides up to $5,000 for a Huron History undergraduate student Research Assistant to be supervised by the African Canadian History Fellowship recipient.

“The appointment of Deirdre McCorkindale as Huron’s Research Fellow in African Canadian History is an important moment for scholarship at Huron,” shares Huron President Dr. Barry Craig. “Her work demonstrates the importance of understanding the past if we are to address the challenges we face as a society in addressing racism today.”

Deirdre McCorkindale, the 2021-2022 recipient, explains the significance of the award, “Currently, within the Canadian research landscape, there is a very particular narrative about Black history that solely focuses on the Underground Railroad, slavery and freedom, neglecting the members of Black communities themselves,” the PhD candidate says. “As an African-Canadian woman, I have a personal stake in wanting to push beyond this singular lens to provide a more robust look at our culture and dispel the pervasive misunderstandings that prevent people from recognizing the diversity of our story.”

Propelled by resentment towards a high school guidance counsellor who laughed at her research ambitions, Deirdre has since pursued a rewarding scholarly journey. The Chatham-born Research Fellow is currently finalizing her PhD dissertation on the history of racial intelligence testing in Canada. Empowered by the Fellowship, Deirdre looks forward to working with the Huron community to demonstrate the danger of romanticized histories and provide meaningful experiential learning opportunities for students. Above all else, she is eager to complete her journey towards professorship as she has seen, firsthand, how much representation matters:

“I’ll never forget when, during my first year of teaching, a Black student approached me after calling her grandmother crying to say, ‘I actually have a professor who is Black,’ because that had just never happened to her before.”

Courses in Black History have been taught at Huron since the early 1990s, and the founding institution of Western University was the first and, for many years, the only Western campus to teach Black History or African American literature. Further, it is the only Western campus to offer a module in African and African Diasporic History.

Huron’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences & Provost, Dr. Geoff Read, shares how the Research Fellowship builds upon Huron’s anti-racist legacy and adds to an area of strength for the institution: “I am very excited Huron and the History Department are able to support Deirdre McKorkindale’s doctoral research. She is making an important contribution to our understanding of the African-Canadian community in 20th Century Southwestern Ontario. We are proud to fund her work and build upon Huron’s historic connections to the African-American and Canadian communities, which stretch back to our founding principal Isaac Hellmuth who was active in the nineteenth century movement to abolish slavery.”

More about Huron

For more than 150 years, Huron has challenged students to be Leaders with Heart. By providing a well- rounded character-based education, Huron strives to be the most elite yet accessible Liberal Arts institution in Canada. The Huron experience equips students to succeed, both as corporate and community leaders, by connecting them with faculty mentorship and meaningful professional development opportunities from day one.

More about Deirdre

Deirdre McCorkindale holds a B.A. and M.A. from Western, and is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at Queen’s University. Her research is focused on the 20th-century Black community in Chatham, and the traumatic history of race-based intelligence testing in the Kent County school system in the 1930s. As the Huron Research Fellow in African Canadian History, she will participate in the work of the Huron Community History Centre, sharing research findings with students in courses on British and British imperial history, and giving a public lecture at Huron in 2022.