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Graduate Student Spotlight: Marquis Taylor


Marquis Taylor examines the relationship between Black college students, college administrators, and federal policymakers during the early 20th century.

I am a fourth-year Ph.D. Candidate, my dissertation explores how Black college students responded to the expectations imposed on them by federal policymakers and administrators at Black colleges between 1918 and 1945. This three-decade period between the close of the First and Second World Wars constituted an intense era of state-building, strengthening of Black education, and the burgeoning consumer market; each of these forces resulted in competing visions of Black college students and their role within the Black community and a modernizing United States.

Focusing on Howard University, Tuskegee Institute (now University), and West Virginia Collegiate Institute, my dissertation considers how students’ sexual appetite, consumption and leisure practices, and perceptions of the nation prompted anxieties for an older generation of African Americans. Also, administrators at those colleges deliberately worked to cement ties with members of Congress and different presidential administrations in hopes of receiving federal appropriations during the interwar period. In turn, Howard, Tuskegee, and West Virginia Collegiate Institute served as hubs to pilot programs affiliated with federal agencies like the Division of Venereal Disease and the National Youth Administration. 

I have a professional commitment to ensure my work actively engages public audiences. As a first-year student, under the direction of Dr. Kate Masur, I worked with a team of history undergrads and Ph.D. students to design and launch an online exhibition about Black political activism in antebellum Illinois. Borrowing the skills I learned from that project, during my second-year, I curated an exhibition about slavery and abolition in the United States to commemorate Northwestern’s acknowledgment of Juneteenth as a campus-wide holiday. The exhibition titled “Freedom For Everyone” highlighted materials from Northwestern Libraries, such as Frederick Douglass’ papers. 

marquis-teaching1-16x9.jpg                                                                                                                     Photo Credit: Melanie Einzing

Currently, I am a Mellon Foundation Predoctoral Fellow at the Tenement Museum in New York City. In this capacity, I serve as Lead Researcher for A Union of Hope: 1869, the Museum’s latest and first permanent exhibition about a 19th-century Black family residing in lower Manhattan. Engaging with historians of antebellum and Civil War-era Black New York, including our own Dr. Leslie M. Harris, I explore Civil War-era Black newspapers, particularly the classified ads. These ads give insight into lower Manhattan’s Eighth Ward (present-day SoHo), a community with a significant concentration of Black residents between the 1850's and 1870s, beyond sensationalist depictions in mainstream papers. My research helps improve the tour’s content for museum tour guides and programs for K-12 students. My work as Lead Researcher at the Tenement Museum has been featured by The New York Times, CBS Saturday Morning, and the Nieman Lab at Harvard. 

As a rising fifth-year Ph.D. candidate, I look forward to spending more time conducting archival research and writing the dissertation. I have a few research trips lined up for the upcoming school year at the National Archives site in College Park, Maryland, and the Stuart A. Rose Library at Emory. I'm excited to see what’s next!


Marquis Taylor

B.A. History | Howard University

Ph.D. Candidate | History Department, Northwestern University

Mellon Foundation Predoctoral Fellow | Tenement Museum

Illinois State Colored Conventions Project

Freedom for Everyone


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