Johanna Obenda

Born Cape Town, South Africa 1994.


MA Public Humanities from Brown University, 2017-2019
With a fully-supported two-year fellowship for a student pursuing a master's degree in Public Humanities who is dedicated to working in museums and other cultural institutions on issues related to the history and legacy of slavery.

BA in History and minor in French from University of Alabama, 2012-2016
National Achievement Scholar

Completed coursework abroad in Paris, France at Cours de Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne, 2015

Museum Education and Programming:

Yale University Art Gallery, Cullman-Payson Fellow in Academic Affairs and Outreach, 2019-2021

The Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Graduate Fellow for the Study of the Public History of Slavery, 2017-2019

The Studio Museum in Harlem, Public Programs Graduate, Summer 2018

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Twelve-Month Intern, Teen Programs Education, 2016-2017

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Research Intern NHRE REU, 2015

Curation and Exhibitions:

Memory Dishes: Women and African Diasporic Cooking, 2019
Lead Curator, Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice
  • Curator of community exhibit exploring the cooking practices of members of the African Diaspora in the Providence area. Memory Dishes provides a platform for underrepresented voices by highlighting six local families, their histories, and the foods they make

A Seat @ The Table, 2018
Curator, Gallery Lab
  • Curated an installation-based exhibit and program series surrounding the kitchen table and the ways the space is used by womxn of color outside of eating and cooking, providing a safe space to host conversations around race, culture, and identity

Rosa Parks House, 2018
Lead Archivist, Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice
  • Project manager of the archival image research for the spring 2018 exhibit on Rosa Parks’ house and the untold story of the Civil Rights Movement. Responsibilities included image archival research, rights acquisitions, and maintaining stakeholder relations

Multimedia Work:

Working Out Loud, 2019
  • Developed a month-long podcasting workshop to address equity and social justice issues in podcasting. Provided undergraduate students tools and resources for producing short audio stories that connected their individual communities to overarching social issues.

“Untitled (Cracked Watermelon)”, 2017
  • Produced audio story on Charles Ethan Porter, the first African American still-life artist, and his painting Untitled (Cracked Watermelon) which hangs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

In Fact
  • Serialized podcast centering on the lives of Cuban detainees in an American federal detention center in Talladega, Alabama, In Production 2016-

Black Noise
  • Co-directed Black Noise, a short documentary on the intersection between race and disability in the Alabama black deaf community, 2014
  • Screened at Sidewalk Film Festival and New Orleans Film Festival, 2014

Southern Exposure Film Fellow
  • Directed In Our Nature, a short documentary on environmental education for urban Alabama youth, commissioned by The Southern Environmental Law Center, 2014

University Research:

Atlantic Slave Trade Research Group, 2017 - present
Researcher, Firelight Films and The Center for The Study of Slavery and Justice
  • Researcher for a PBS produced multi-part documentary on the slave trade. Helped coordinate and manage five intensive research workshops in North America, Europe, and Africa with top scholars and film producers

Memory Dishes: An Exploration of African Diasporic Cooking Practices in Rhode Island
  • Researched African diasporic cooking in the United States by taking a hyper-local analysis of culinary practices in Providence, Rhode Island through a series of oral histories

Runaway Advertisements, Hair, and Colonial Racial Identity in Eighteenth Century America
  • Researched the connection between descriptions of hair in runaway slave advertisements and 18th century colonial American identity

Freedom on the Move
  • Worked as a research assistant for the project “Freedom on the Move” collecting runaway slave advertisements for the purpose of adding them to a digital database.

Presentations and Awards:

  • Awarded fully funded two-year fellowship through the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice in partnership with the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities
  • American Association of Physical Anthropologist, 2016
  • National Undergraduate Research Conference 2014
  • University of Alabama Undergraduate Research Conference 2013
  • Harold Bishop Award
  • National Achievement Scholar