There’s nothing quite like trailing your fingers across spines of books and then picking one at random to read.
That’s what you’ll find JoyEllen Freeman doing during her free time, sitting in between aisles of books on one of the top floors of the university’s Main Library.
JoyEllen, a third-year Honors student majoring in English and English education, is fascinated by history, documentaries, and books. In May, she participated in a 10-day journey that allowed 40 students to travel from Washington, DC to New Orleans to recreate the 1961 Freedom Ride of the American Civil Rights Movement. During the trip hosted by the American Experience and the Public Broadcasting Service, students stopped at 20 southern cities to feel the memories.
“It was seeing, literally riding with, talking to and eating with my research,” JoyEllen said. “I spent time with the people who were the original Freedom Riders involved in protests and sit-ins.”
JoyEllen, a CURO Honors Scholar in the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities, started her research with English Associate Professor Barbara McCaskill and the university’s Civil Rights Digital Library.
“I love archival material,” JoyEllen said. “My interests in civil rights, history, and pedagogy came together, and several projects have stemmed from that.”
Named a CURO Summer Research Fellow in 2010, JoyEllen investigated the life and music of Blind Tom and then presented the research titled, “The Message behind the Music: Blind Tom’s Response to Nineteenth-Century Views on Race” at the 2011 CURO Symposium and the 2010 Constructing Identity Conference at Macon State College.
Now she’s pouring through documents about slavery, interviewing civil rights activists, and focusing on archival film about the Black Power movement in Philadelphia in the 1960s. She plans to extend her research this fall as she writes an Honors thesis about the topic.
“My thesis is based on the archival film nominated for a Peabody Award that stars Ossie Davis and other famous African American actors who narrated a video about the Black Power movement and why it exists,” she said. “They narrate by using poems and essays from well-known African Americans and the literary canon, and my analysis talks about how it uses the canon to legitimize and normalize that movement, which many people thought was radical.”
JoyEllen, awarded a midterm Foundation Fellowship in the spring, attended the UGA en Buenos Aires program during the summer, where she expanded her ideas about culture through a homestay and language immersion in Argentina.
“I had the wrong impression of what it would be like, and it surprised me to learn that many mannerisms were very European,” she said. “I was also looking at their world through American glasses, so it was great to shed that and not come into an experience with expectations about what it should be like.”
She also observed new notions of race and ethnicity.
“I had been preoccupied with North America and U.S. race issues and didn’t think about the fact that South America and Central America deal with the same issues,” she said. “It’s not unique to one location. We all have racial issues to work through.”
JoyEllen hopes to extend her experience to teaching in a classroom after graduation. She now works as a CURO Teaching Assistant and mentors first- and second-year researchers.
“I really want to get experience in a classroom. I love teaching, and I love middle school, which is the age group I teach at my church,” she said. “Most of all, I love fostering a community, which is what CURO did for me when I first came to UGA.”
JoyEllen also aims to work in the nonprofit sector related to education and research. Her dream job is with the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization that tracks and exposes the activities of hate groups. Founded by civil rights lawyers in 1971, the group focuses on its Teaching Tolerance program, which produces and distributes films, books, and lesson plans that promote tolerance in schools.
“I want to work for a group that is committed to social justice, teaching tolerance, and focusing on diversity,” JoyEllen said. “This group brings together tolerance and teaching in a powerful way.”
Follow JoyEllen's Freedom Ride video blog and read her article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. A mentor and tutor for the Thomas Lay After School Program, Joy was also the lead poetry editor for the Mandala Journal, an online, student-run, multicultural journal.
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