Karolyn Smardz Frost will head to Yale University in August as a visiting scholar in Canadian studies for the next academic year.Karolyn Smardz Frost. Photo by Timothy Hudson
Smardz Frost is the senior research fellow for African Canadian history at York’s Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples. She is the author of I’ve Got a Home in Glory Land, winner of multiple awards, including the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction.
Yale’s Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies invited her to teach and continue her research as the Canadian Bicentennial Visiting Scholar for the 2012-2013 academic year. The annual fellowship goes to scholars who specialize in Canadian studies in a comparative or international context.
“It’s a pretty big deal and an enormous honour,” says Smardz Frost. “This is a career pinnacle, along with the Governor General’s Award, and a recognition of the importance of African-Canadian history in the African diaspora.” (See YorkU profile.)
Beyond a great personal honour, she said, it is an opportunity to share new research about enslaved African Americans who escaped to Canada before the American Civil War and played a pivotal role in extending the Underground Railroad – the route to freedom – north across the border.
While at Yale, the award-winning teacher and 2010 TVO Best Lecturer finalist will offer two courses – Canada and the Underground Railroad, and African Canadian history. She says Yale offered her the fellowship as much for her teaching methodology as for her research. “As has become my trademark in teaching, I engage students in public history projects.” She sends them out to do primary research and then asks them to share their findings with the broader community.
Smardz Frost also has funding to continue research on a new book about the connections between New England and Canada’s maritime provinces in African Canadian history. “So the timing of this fellowship is miraculous.”
Smardz Frost will be cross appointed to Yale’s history department. Those invited to Yale as Canadian Bicentennial Fellows have included political scientists, historians, English literature scholars, anthropologists and an architect. The first, in 1997, was retired York history professor Ramsay Cook, editor of the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.