Gregg Hecimovich, an English professor and recipient of the NEH's "We the People" stipend, will use the grant to study North Carolina's connection to Hanna Crafts, a slave woman who lived in the 1850s.
"Hannah Crafts is the pen name of a fugitive slave who scholars believe wrote the first novel by an African-American woman," said Hecimovich
"To authenticate the identity of Hannah Crafts and her novel ... scholars have recently focused their attention on the links between the slave-owning Wheeler family in the novel and the family of the historical John Hill Wheeler, a prominent 19th century North Carolinian," Hecimovich
will do research connecting the Crafts' novel to the Kate Wheeler Cooper Collection housed at Joyner Library
"It is my contention that Hannah Crafts was originally a slave on the plantation of Samuel Jordan Wheeler [brother of John Hill Wheeler], before making her escape after she joined the household of John Hill Wheeler in 1857 or 1858," Hecimovich
, who teaches Victorian literature and British and American literary history, is excited about the research for his
book, "Hannah Crafts and North Carolina."
"One of the exciting things about my project ... is that it combines my passion for 19th century literature and for North Carolina," Hecimovich
is one of 16 current recipients of the "We the People Award," an award designed to recognize projects that contribute to the ideals of American history and culture.
"If my project bears the fruit that I think it promises, my book ... will make a lasting contribution to African-American history, American history, North Carolina history and the history of the novel," Hecimovich
said.Hecimovich has taught at ECU for two years as an assistant professor in the English department.He earned his Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and completed his Master of Arts and doctorate at Vanderbilt University.He has previously taught at Eastern Illinois University and Seattle University.