NEH Grant Funds Summer Institute on Nelson Hackett's Flight From Slavery

Caree Banton (left) and Tricia Starks are co-principal investigators for "The Local and International Legacies of Nelson Hackett's Flight from Slavery, 1841-1861" summer institute.
Photos courtesy of the University of Arkansas.

Caree Banton (left) and Tricia Starks are co-principal investigators for "The Local and International Legacies of Nelson Hackett's Flight from Slavery, 1841-1861" summer institute.

U of A faculty members Caree Banton and Tricia Starks have been awarded a Summer Teaching Institute grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for their project, “The Local and International Legacies of Nelson Hackett’s Flight from Slavery, 1841-1861.”

The $170,000 grant will bring 36 K-12 educators from across the nation to the U of A to study the story of Nelson Hackett, an enslaved man who fled both Fayetteville and bondage in 1841. Hackett’s flight set off an international legal battle that ensured Canada remained a haven for those escaping from slavery in the U.S. South.

“When the participating educators visit for the institute, they will leave Fayetteville with not just fantastic lessons for their classrooms, but an appreciation of the university that they will pass on to students and colleagues,” said interim Chancellor Charles F. Robinson. “This institute brings the award-winning teaching and top-flight scholarship of the University of Arkansas to national attention.”

Banton, associate professor in the Department of History and director of African and African American Studies, and Starks, professor of history and director of the U of A Humanities Center, are co-principal investigators on the project.

Additionally, Charlene Johnson, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education and Health Professions, and Michael Pierce, associate professor of history, will work alongside Banton and Starks to show participants how to enrich their teaching using the latest historical scholarship alongside digital resources like the U of A Humanities Center’s Nelson Hackett Project.

“Banton, Johnson and Pierce have created an incredible program to connect teachers with free, digital humanities resources designed and maintained by the U of A Humanities Center,” Starks said. “This will allow students across America to find out about a Fayetteville man whose fight for freedom changed the course of nations.”

Synetra Morris, vice principal of Fayetteville’s Owl Creek School, will join the group as an expert on core curriculum requirements and educational enrichment.

Experts from across the nation will also participate in the institute, including Richard Blackett, the Andrew Jackson Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, and Déanda M. Johnson of the National Park Service.

Blackett, an award-winning scholar on the tensions leading to the Civil War, will explain how Hackett’s flight, along with those of thousands of other fugitives, pushed the nation toward conflict.

Johnson, Midwest regional director of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program, will acquaint educators with the many resources from the site that can take this Arkansas story and connect it to instructors’ local places and histories.

Information on application procedures will be available soon on the U of A Humanities Center website.

Questions and queries can also be sent to Starks at

The Nelson Hackett Project is available free online and can be accessed anytime by anyone wishing to become acquainted with this amazing story.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the top 3% of U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research News.


Andra Liwag, director of communications
Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences

Tricia Starks, professor and director
University of Arkansas Humanities Center


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