ISGRJ and Sponsored Research Projects at Rutgers University:

Scholarship Promoting Racial Justice in the Arts, Humanities, and Humanistic Sciences

red, green, and blue wallpaper

Humanists often face the challenge of isolation within the academy, counter-productive for scholars who aim to produce research disruptive of current racial inequities and discriminatory social hierarchies. ISGRJ can provide opportunities for scholars to imagine and build collaborative, collective, humanistic research endeavors, producing knowledge together in ways that offer alternatives to the individual monograph.

Such projects can allow scholars to lend our field expertise to research projects farther afield but with direct bearing on questions of racial and social justice, and to engage in alternative forms of writing and intellectual production.  

Supported by Rutgers’ Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs (EVPAA), Prabhas Moghe, ISGRJ Executive Director Michelle Stephens and Director of Sponsored Research Robin Yarborough work together with primary investigators to support, encourage, advise on, and help generate collaborative, interdisciplinary, research projects designed by ISGRJ’s Campus Directors and other Rutgers faculty.

ISGRJ support ranges from consultation and partnership on large research projects, to aid with pre- and post-award management for grants submitted by Rutgers faculty, to generating new grant funded projects at the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University.  

Michelle Stephens

Michelle Stephens

Robin Yarborough

Robin Yarborough


Black Bodies,
Black Health

ISGRJ Founding and Executive Director Michelle Stephens, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University–New Brunswick and Senior Fellow Anna Branch, Senior Vice President of Equity and Professor of Sociology, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers–New Brunswick

The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore the deadly consequences of racial disparities in health. More than spotlighting racial health inequity, however, the pandemic exposed anew the depths of staggering racial inequality nationwide. In every sector from education to the labor market, housing to healthcare, the provision to meet basic human needs and take steps to ensure wellness were racially unequal. These are national problems but as one of the most diverse states in the country, New Jersey holds several unwelcome distinctions for long-standing inequities in critical systems that have profound implications for vulnerability to poor health outcomes.  

What would we learn from bringing humanists, social scientists, and biomedical researchers to the table to explore, unpack, and disrupt structural racism in service of creating equitable health outcomes? What would a just racial future require to remediate the imprints of the past in the structures of our present? This research project, supported by a $725,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, brings together cross-disciplinary groups of experts to explore and unpack structural racism in service of creating equitable health outcomes, centering humanistic and social scientific approaches.  

RWJF approached ISGRJ explicitly due to our reputation as an Institute founded on Humanities research, and also due to our location in the state university of New Jersey. The Foundation continues to draw on the expertise of Director Stephens and other Rutgers humanists, such as Shakespearean and early modern scholar Patricia Akhimie, to bring their humanistic scholarly perspectives on race and health to conversations among RWJF leaders, program officers, and grantees.  

The Black Bodies Black Health project has produced a report for RWJF that answers these questions, and a book chapter describing a research process that included workshops on the meaning of “race” and “disruption,” with the aim of creating a shared vocabulary among an interdisciplinary group of seed grantees from the diverse fields of the environmental sciences, history, labor relations, medicine, nursing, philosophy, psychology, and social work.

Led by Stephens, Branch, and a steering committee of faculty experts in queer studies, public health, family medicine, community health, the sociology of health, and the psychology of implicit bias, the research team held a 3-day conference with external scholars on August 17-19, 2021, focusing on racial health disparities and achieving health equity. The conference culminated in a Presidential Keynote by sitting Rutgers President Jonathan Holloway entitled "Mapping Value: The Material Consequences of Structural Racism."

The project will culminate in June 2023 with an event for stakeholders to discuss the findings from this research, as it has implications for physician education in race and health equity, the role of the carceral state and environmental racism, the physiological impact of racism on black bodies, and the efficacy of the United States health care delivery system, in communities ranging across the state, nation, and world. ISGRJ’s goal with this research project is not only to treat race and health equity as a wicked problem that benefits from interdisciplinary conversations with a strong humanistic core, but also, to strategize ways of communicating that research to a broader public, reaching key agents in communities and institutional settings within the health care industry. 

Learn more about the Black Bodies, Black Health Project here.

New Jersey Slavery Records

ISGRJ Research Project Manager and Digital Archivist Jesse Bayker, Scarlet & Black Research Project, ISGRJ, School of Arts and Sciences, New Brunswick, and Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor’s Office 

In September 2022 the Scarlet and Black research team, led by Research Project Manager and Digital Archivist Jesse Bayker, launched the new website New Jersey Slavery Records, a growing open-access database that documents the history of slavery in New Jersey communities through digital archival sources. This resulted from a collaboration with colleagues at CUNY John Jay College working on the Northeast Slavery Records Index (NESRI), and with the support of a sub-award from the cross-institutional project On These Grounds: Slavery and the University, a Mellon Foundation funded digital humanities initiative helping university-based archivists and historians publish data about enslavement based on institutional archival holdings. 

Access the New Jersey Slavery Records website here.

Jesse Bayker

Jesse Bayker


Networking Black Print: The Black Bibliography Project (BBP)

Meredith McGill, English, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers-New Brunswick and Jacqueline Goldsby, English, African American Studies and American Studies, Yale University 

The Black Bibliography Project (BBP) aims to revive and transform Descriptive Bibliography—the systematic description of print materials as physical objects—for African American and Black Diaspora literary studies. The goal is to create a digital database whose capacities can reveal the dynamic social formations and aesthetic practices that are specific to Black print culture in the U.S. and beyond.

McGill and Goldsby believe that the digital environment is ideally suited for bibliographic information: unlike codex bibliographies, a digital bibliographic database can be queryable, expandable, revisable, and re-organizable (no longer ordered only by the lives of authors); it can include images of covers, illustrations, and vital bibliographic details; it can also be crowd-sourced and publicly accessible. By tapping the explanatory potential of digital technologies (specifically, the revolutionary metadata approach called “Linked Data”), the goal of this project is to build an electronic database whose networking capacities can reveal the social formations and aesthetic practices that are specific to Black print culture, in the U.S. and across the Black Diaspora. 

Dr. Tajah Ebram Appointed as First Black Studies Librarian and Lead for the Black Bibliography Project

Dr. Tajah Ebram

Dr. Tajah Ebram

The Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice, Rutgers University Libraries and the Black Bibliography Project  are delighted to announce the appointment of Dr. Tajah Ebram as the first Black Studies Librarian at Rutgers University.  In addition to supporting faculty and students working in Black studies, Dr. Ebram will serve as the Rutgers lead for the Black Bibliography Project, which seeks to revitalize the practice of bibliography for African American literary and cultural studies. She will be based in Alexander Library, collaborating across the campus and with BBP colleagues at Yale University.

Read more about Dr. Ebram's appointment here.

Learn more about the The Black Bibliography Project (BBP) here.

Race B4 Race: Sustaining, Building, Innovating - Mentoring Network

Patricia Akhimie, English, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers-Newark 

The roots of systemic racism run deep, but how deep are its origins? Rutgers-Newark has joined a network of scholars working to uncover the beginnings of modern conceptions of race and racism through the study of pre-modern times. The work to explore issues of race in pre-modern—or pre-17th century—literature, history, and culture is being conducted as part of the RaceB4Race project, headquartered at Arizona State University (ASU), that brings together classicist, medievalist, and early modernist scholars of race.

Patricia Akhimie, while an associate professor of English at Rutgers-Newark, led an initiative under the Mellon grant to create a national mentoring network designed to support these scholars. Her work involves developing an interdisciplinary and cross-institutional system of mentoring, as well as institutes for early and mid-career scholars working on their first and second books, and year-long reading and research groups. Patricia now takes this important work with her in her new role as Director of the Folger Institute. 

Learn more about Race B4 Race here.

Patricia Akhimie

Patricia Akhimie

Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language 

ISGRJ-Newark Campus Director Mayte Green-Mercado, History and Amir Moosavi, English - School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University-Newark

desk globe on table

UISFL is a Department of Education grant that provides funding to plan, develop, and carry out programs to strengthen and improve undergraduate instruction in international studies and foreign languages.

Professors Mayte Green-Mercado and Amir Moosavi were awarded this grant to develop the Arabic Language Initiative (ALI) at Rutgers University-Newark which aims at expanding Arabic Language instruction, courses on Middle Eastern history, politics, society, and culture, as well as study abroad and service-learning opportunities for Rutgers-Newark undergraduate students. The Arabic Language Initiative will also launch a lecture series devoted to exploring questions of human displacement and transitional justice.   


A Workplace Divided: Combining Robust Survey Research and Strategic Stakeholder Engagement to Advance Equitable Workplaces and Economic Progress for Workers

Carl Van Horn, Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and Ronald Quincy, Professor of Professional Practice and Senior Faculty Fellow for Diversity Studies at the Heldrich Center.  

grayscale photography of woman sitting in front of a computer

Executive Director Stephens serves as an advisory partner on this research project supported by WorkRise, a research-to-action network on jobs, workers, and mobility hosted by the Urban Institute.

A Workplace Divided gathers in survey form workers’ opinions and experiences of both workplace discrimination and employer-initiated diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.  

Professor Carl Van Horn

Professor Carl Van Horn

Professor Ronald Quincy

Professor Ronald Quincy

These sponsored research projects address in multi-faceted ways problems of racial and social discrimination.

They bear on such topics as health equity, the continued legacy of slavery, discrimination in the workplace, migration, displacement and transitional justice, and the visibility of pre-twenty-first century journalists, writers, thinkers and scholars, engaged with recording black life and letters and with studying pre-modern processes of racial formation.

Initiated, supported or co-sponsored by The Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice,  the goal of our involvement and collaboration is to contribute to expanding the fields of influence of Rutgers researchers on racial and social justice in the humanities and humanistic sciences.