Campus Notebook

Studying migration from the past, informing the present

NIU history professor wins national fellowship

Northern Illinois University history professor Aaron Fogleman received the Guggenheim Fellowship recently to work on his book about immigrant voices that made transatlantic migrations from 1492 to 1867.
Northern Illinois University history professor Aaron Fogleman received the Guggenheim Fellowship recently to work on his book about immigrant voices that made transatlantic migrations from 1492 to 1867.

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University history professor Aaron Fogleman was awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Fogleman said he has studied transatlantic migration from 1492 to 1867 – from Christopher Columbus to the end of transatlantic slave trade – for decades as a historian. He said he will use the year-long fellowship to finish researching for his book, which is tentatively titled “Immigrant Voices: European and African Stories of Freedom, Unfreedom, and Identity in the Americas through Four Centuries,” according to the foundation’s website.

Fogleman said his project takes a look at hundreds of English, Irish, German, Spanish and other European immigrant voices through letters, diaries, memoirs and other records. He said it will include information from more than 150 narratives of enslaved Africans as well.

“It’s just unbelievable what happens to these people – it’s true now,” Fogleman said. “So what do they say? What do they tell you about it? That’s what I’m after.”

Fogleman was one of 173 scholars, artists and scientists awarded the fellowship out of about 3,000 applicants. He was one of three U.S. historians named as Fellows, according to an NIU news release.

Fogleman began his research for his book with the help of NIU faculty-grant programs, according to a news release. He said he will not be teaching or doing anything else with the university for a year starting in August.

Fogleman said he wasn’t sure how he’d get a year off of teaching to get through the mountain of research he has for his book covering four centuries worth of transatlantic migration history. He said it would be impossible to work on this book without that kind of time off.

But, Fogleman said, the university is supportive of faculty pursuing opportunities like this, since having staff receive those awards is the objective for NIU as a research institution.

While this project will focus more on past immigrants and their voluntary or involuntary migrations, Fogleman said, there’s a significant relevance to current events and give context on issues that the world sees today.

“It’s just extremely revealing,” Fogleman said. “If you want to know why people left, what it was like in their homeland, ask them. They’ll tell you.”

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