Laura Helton

Laura Helton specializes in American literature and history of the twentieth century with an emphasis on African American print culture and public humanities. Her research and teaching interests include archival studies, memory and material culture, gender and sexuality, and literary practices of the black freedom struggle. Her current book project, Collecting and Collectivity: Black Archival Publics, 1900-1950, examines the emergence of African American archives and libraries to show how historical recuperation shaped forms of racial imagination in the early twentieth century. Professor Helton is co-editor of a special issue of Social Text on “The Question of Recovery: Slavery, Freedom, and the Archive” (2015) and a special issue of African American Review on the Afro-Puerto Rican bibliophile and curator Arturo Schomburg (forthcoming). Her work on Black information practices has appeared in PMLA (2019) and in the edited volumes Against a Sharp White Background: Infrastructures of African American Print (2019) and Information: Keywords (2021). She has received fellowships from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Scholars-in-Residence Program (2019-2020), the National Endowment for the Humanities (2019), the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies at the University of Virginia (2013-2015), and the Center for Humanities & Information at Penn State (2015-2017). Professor Helton’s interest in the social history of archives arose from her earlier career as an archivist. She has surveyed and processed collections that document the civil rights era, women’s movement, and American radicalism for several cultural institutions, including the Mississippi Digital Library, Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, CityLore, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

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