17th Century Barbados Slave Naming Practices: A Cultural Retention, University of Alabama 2013-2014

Independent undergraduate research under the guidance of University of Alabama’s Dr. Jenny Shaw. This research centered on African cultural retention and adaptation observed through naming practices in slave communities in seventeenth-century Barbados. Johanna explored the idea that the use of African naming practices in slave societies resulted from the need for new cultural bonds that could aid existence inside the structure of forced servitude.

Freedom on the Move, University of Alabama 2015

Research assistant for Dr. Joshua Rothman and the “Freedom on the Move” project, a digital database of North American runaway slave advertisements. Johanna studied micro-slides of The Montgomery Advertiser and digitally captured the content of runaway ads to be added to the larger national digital database.

Runaway Advertisements, Hair, and Colonial Racial Identity in Eighteenth Century America, University of Alabama 2015

Johanna has researched the connection between the depiction of slave hair in runaway advertisements and colonial American racial identity. In this project she argues that hair was one of the first features European colonists used to create racial divisions in North America in order to support order through slavery. Typically in these ads slaves with more phenotypically sub-Saharan African features were described as having “kinky”, “coily”, “wool-like” hair. Some slaves with dark skin could be said as having “Indian-hair”, while a slave identified as a mulatto could have the hair “of a white man”. This research on colonial slavery connects to Johanna’s interest the ways the divisions present in black America have been passed down through slavery, and how these divisions have been rejected, embraced, and transformed by contemporary black Americans.

What does it mean to be human?, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History 2015

NSF funded Undergraduate Research Experience at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Johanna completed museum education research project on visitor responses to the question “What does it mean to be human?” in the Hall of Human Origins . These responses were coded into categories (cognitive, social, biological, emotional, and). The data was used to gage how visitors were engaging with the Hall of Human Origins and its evolutionary explanation of humanity. Its results will be used for future programmatic and exhibit design.