Africana Studies scholar earns internationally competitive fellowship

Through one of the most competitive fellowship programs in the world, UNC Charlotte Africana Studies scholar Oscar de la Torre has been named the Anthony E. Kaye Fellow at the National Humanities Center in the coming academic year.

De la Torre will join 35 other leading scholars chosen as fellows from 638 applicants from universities and colleges in 16 U.S. states and from Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Nigeria and Taiwan. Each fellow will work on an individual research project and will have the opportunity to share ideas in seminars, lectures and conferences. The National Humanities Center is the world’s only independent institute dedicated exclusively to advanced study in all areas of the humanities.

“We are proud to support the work of these exceptional scholars,” said Robert D. Newman, center president and director. “They were selected from an extremely competitive group of applicants, and their work covers a wide gamut of fascinating topics that promises to shape thinking in their fields for years to come.”

With the fellowship, De la Torre will focus on his second book, a study of Afro-Cubans — free and enslaved, women and men — in the city of Matanzas, Cuba, during the 19th century. His rich and stimulating book will include digital mapping and what he describes as shocking findings using archival evidence.

De la Torre is an associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies and a faculty member in the Latin American Studies program. His research focuses broadly on slavery and the post-emancipation period in Brazil, Cuba, and the U.S., with a special focus on the connections between environment, labor, and identity.

He also is interested in the oral history of slavery in present-day Black peasant movements across the Americas and in the comparative analysis of race relations in Latin America and the U.S.

His first book, “The People of the River” (UNC Press, 2018), is a social and environmental history of Black communities in Amazonia that has been described as making an important contribution to the history of the African diaspora. The book won the 2019 Outstanding First Book Award from the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, the 2020 Best Book on Amazonian Studies Prize from the Latin American Studies Association’s Amazonia Section, and an honorary mention from the Brazilian Studies Association for its 2019 Roberto Reis Book Prize.

He has co-edited special issues of Boletín Americanista on post-emancipation societies and Ofo: Journal of Transatlantic Studies on community engagement in the African Diaspora. He has served as a book and article reviewer for Hispanic American Historical Review, The Americas, The Journal of African American Studies, Latin American Research Review and others. He earned a doctorate in history at the University of Pittsburgh and a post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University’s Gilder-Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition.

Read a Q&A with De la Torre on CLAS Exchange.