Nedra Lee: Historical Archaeologist
Nedra Lee studies our past to inform issues of race today
Nedra Lee's mother is a history buff.
From an early age, Lee's mother instilled in her an interest in all things historical -- especially those related to black history. From family trips to historical locations to the retelling of stories from days past, Lee grew up with an interest in those people and things that came before her.
So it's hardly surprising that Lee would go on to become a scholar of history in her own right. Now a doctoral student at The University of Texas, Lee is studying historical archaeology of the African Diaspora. Currently, she is focusing on a post-emancipation era site in nearby Manchaca, Texas.
"I am looking at a black land-owning family...who purchased their property in 1871 and kept it in their family for sixty years," says Lee.
Lee says that this family is just one example of the larger issues of race, space and land ownership that she is currently studying.
Years of history lessons from her mother made Lee passionate about black history, but she says it was a family trip to colonial Williamsburg that sparked her interest in archaeology. Armed with a love of these two disciplines, Lee was pleased to find that The University of Texas could offer her exactly what she was searching for: a way to marry her two passions.
"UT graduates the largest number of African-American PhD students," says Lee "and they approach the African Diaspora program from a theoretical perspective."
Lee says that the support she has received -- in the form of numerous prestigious fellowships -- has allowed her to move forward with her research in a much more timely manner than if she had to work through graduate school.
"The fellowships have hastened my progress as a doctoral student," says Lee, who currently works as a research assistant. "Having the time to pursue a research interest means a lot to me."
Lee's goals include finishing her dissertation and ultimately becoming a professor, the kind of professor, she says, that truly gives back to the community.
"I would like to be a professor, but one that is just as rooted in the community as I am in the classroom," says Lee. "I'm actually learning now how to critically engage with issues of race, sex and class...not only on a very theoretical level, but also to apply them in my everyday life and in my scholarship, and to speak to people in non-academic settings."
By Lauren Edwards
Historical Archaeology of the African Diaspora, doctoral student