Carnegie Mellon University

From its inception CAUSE forged interdisciplinary collaborations with other units within Carnegie Mellon University, including the H. John Heinz College as well as departments within the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. As the University created new center, namely the Center for the Arts and Society and the Humanities Center, CAUSE also collaborated with these interdisciplinary efforts.  Although the Center emphasizes graduate education and faculty development through its seminars, speakers series, and postdoctoral fellowship program, beginning in 2007 we developed an interdisciplinary minor for undergraduates.  This minor also underscores the diverse interdisciplinary connections between CAUSE and faculty and students in other departments.  

Minor in African and African American Studies

The Humanities Center 

CMU International Film Festival

Thursday, September 21
Mellon Institute Auditorium (4400 Fifth Avenue, CMU)

‘Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked’ by string ensemble, a dramatic reading of excerpts from Requiem for Rice libretto by Vanessa German, and discussion of the score (in development) and libretto by Dr. Trevor Weston, composer, and Dr. Edda L. Fields-Black, librettist.  The event will take place on Thursday, September 21 at 7pm in CMU's Mellon Institute Auditorium (4400 Fifth Avenue, 15213, enter on Bellefield Avenue).

‘Unburied, Unmourned, Unmarked’ is inspired by the history of African and African American forced laborers who cultivated rice in the Lowcountry. Colour of Music Festival commissioned Dr. Trevor Weston to compose ‘Unburied’, ‘Unmourned’, ‘Unmarked’. This piece for string orchestra takes inspiration from traditional African music and traditional African American folk music, fiddle music, long-meter hymns and Gullah spirituals. The string work will eventually become a longer dramatic work for voices and full orchestra, Requiem for Rice.

On this special evening, Pittsburghers can attend a staging of ‘Unburied’, Unmourned’, ‘Unmarked’ by a string quartet one month before its world premiere at Colour of Music Festival in Charleston, SC. The audience is also invited to participate in a discussion afterwards with composer, Dr. Trevor Weston, and librettist, Dr. Edda L. Fields-Black.

Supported by Opportunity Fund and Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE), School of Music, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences Dean’s Office, Center for Diversity and Inclusion,and Center for the Arts in Society.


An original work of Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form, this performance tells the story of a prominent Indian feminist and anti-colonial activist, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, as she confronts racism in Louisiana in 1940. A powerfully moving work of dance that blends forgotten history with original music, poetry, and motion, Out of the Shadows will be performed by renowned dancer and choreographer, Anjal Chande. Free and open to the public.

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Since its inception in 1995, eleven Heinz graduate students served as CAUSE interns.  Heinz students provide valuable research assistance to affiliated faculty and attended our ongoing Speakers Series, designed to build bridges between history and other disciplines as well as forge ties with the larger Pittsburgh metropolitan community. Moreover, over the years, our interns facilitated the building of ties between CAUSE and the larger minority student body at Carnegie Mellon University.  In the spring of 2009, for example, we collaborated with Heinz student Tramaine Brathwaite and the Black Graduate Student Association in sponsoring the conference and workshop, “Graduate School: Make the Leap,” which featured a keynote address by African American historian Francille Wilson.  Most recently, however, in the spring of 2014, two Heinz students, Michelle A. Little and  Aisha Suraz, coordinated the extraordinary BGSO-CAUSE panel discussion, “Reunion: Reflections on the Pittsburgh Civil Rights Movement,” which showcased the recent book, Voices from the Firing Line (2014), a study of the civil rights and black power movements in Pittsburgh, by historian Ralph Proctor. In addition to Proctor, this panel included three veterans of the Pittsburgh Civil Rights Movement, who also shared memories of the Pittsburgh movement, its goals, the demonstrations, the methodology, and the results.

In collaboration with the Office of Undergraduate Research Initiative and the Center for the Arts in Society, the Center helped fund a Summer Undergraduate Research Grant) project by Dahlia Leibovich, “When I was Young: A Book for Children Highlighting Women’s Contributions to the Pittsburgh Jazz Scene,” (Summer 2002). This study illuminated the role of women in the development of jazz in the mid-20th century Hill and was based upon the memories of a grandmother retelling the story of jazz to a young girl who lived in the same house. This collaboration expanded to include additional co-sponsored projects with the Center for the Arts and Society (CAS), including “Hill District Project: A Multi-disciplinary Collaborative Project with Residents of Pittsburgh's Hill District” (10 February 2003) and “Connecting Community to Knowledge: Sustaining a Youth Inspired Library” (14 October 2003) also a Hill District Project. CAS is also a current co-sponsor of the upcoming film, “(T)ERROR,” with co-filmmaker Lyric Cabral.

More about the (T)ERROR Film Screening Event

Sustainable Landscape Architecture Project (SLAP)

Located in the College of Fine Arts, SLAP is a community-based, after school, design arts program for low-income, inner city youth. The program uses design as its education framework and emphasizes student involvement in restoring vacant lots in the Pittsburgh Hill District. CAUSE worked with the organization on the development of an urban history component in its work with students.

CAUSE-Sponsored Courses on African History

Dr. Rebecca Shumway

Ph.D.: Emory University, 2004


Rebecca Shumway was a faculty affiliate in the Center for Africanamerican Urban Studies and the Economy (CAUSE) during the 2013-14 academic year. Dr. Shumway received her Ph.D. in 2004 from Emory University, where she specialized in the precolonial history of West Africa and Atlantic history. She has held academic appointments at Appalachian State University and Minnesota State University Mankato. Before joining Carnegie Mellon University, she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

She is the author of The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade (University of Rochester Press, Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora, 2011) which was selected as a finalist for the African Studies Association’s Herskovits Award (for the best book on Africa published in the previous year in the fields of History, Political Science, Art History, Anthropology and Literature) in 2012. The book examines the role played by the people of southern Ghana (formerly known as the Gold Coast) in the transatlantic slave trade during the eighteenth century and the ways in which they managed to manipulate the circumstances of the trade to their own advantage, lifting themselves to an elite status in the region. She argues that the “rapid and continuous growth of the transatlantic trade in slaves on Ghana’s coast created a set of conditions within which the people of southern Ghana completely transformed their political structure and created the groundwork for a new cultural identity.” Shumway provides a fresh look at the complex web of players involved in a trade that uprooted approximately one million Africans from their homeland into enslavement in the New World.

Her current book project, tentatively titled West African Roots of Pan-Africanism: Fanteland, 1800-1875, builds upon the first by examining how Gold Coast society transformed during the period between the end of the transatlantic slave trade and the imposition of formal British colonial rule on the Gold Coast in 1874. It will be the first historical monograph written since Ghana’s independence in 1957 to treat Fante history throughout the crucial period between the end of the slave trade and the onset of formal British colonial rule, and will contribute to historical understanding of Africa in the nineteenth century, particularly with regard to abolition, European imperialism and the formation of African ethnic identities.

Selected Publications

2014. “Palavers and Treaty-Making in the British Acquisition of the Gold Coast Colony (West Africa),” chapter in Saliha Belmessous, ed., Empire by Treaty, Oxford University Press, f.c.

2013. “Castle Slaves of the Eighteenth Century Gold Coast,” Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, published online 12 July 2013

2013. “Pre-Colonial Political Systems,” in Thomas Spear, ed., Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies. New York: Oxford University Press

2011. The Fante and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, University of Rochester Press (Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora)

2011. “The Fante Shrine of Nananom Mpow and the Atlantic Slave Trade in Southern Ghana,” International Journal of African Historical Studies 44:1, pp. 27-44

2007. “Abolition of the Slave Trade: Repercussions in Africa,” Islas: Official Publication of the Afro-Cuban Alliance, Inc. 2, no. 8, pp. 35-38

2007. “Accra,” “Asante,” “Gold Coast,” “Interlopers,” “Kormantyn,” “Royal Africa Company,” and “Trade Forts” in Encyclopedia of the Middle Passage, Greenwood Press