Kendra Grissom is a current PhD student in the history department, focusing on 20th century African American history, social history, labor history and radicalism. She has a bachelors in history with a concentration in U.S. and African American History from Spelman College.
I’m from Baltimore, but Hopkins really became my first choice after I came to EHOP in October 2019. I was drawn to Dr. Jackson and the Billie Holiday Project for Liberation Arts, and how they are working to bring history to the African American community. My service work was divorced from my academic work before I came to Hopkins. It was grounding for me to realize I could do both here.
I was surprised at how easy it was to foster community [in the history department], even when I haven’t been on campus. I work with a lot of different faculty members, and I feel like I have more of an advising team than a singular adviser. Each of these faculty serve a particular need. There are four other Black women in the history department who support me as well–they help me decompress and navigate the graduate school process, even though they aren’t in my cohort. I felt welcomed, even at moments when I was retreating into myself.
I’m currently working on a first-year, primary sources research paper focused on Black women FBI informants from the 1940s to the 1970s. I’m focused on two women in particular who later became outspoken anti-Communists and detractors of the civil rights movement, and completing field work with Dr. Turner on Black women’s politics across the diaspora.
In the future, I’d love to work w Dr. Jackson on the Billie Holiday project, particularly around the creation of archives for black churches. I currently work with the Council of Elders of Howard county, and I sit on the Howard County public schools’ advisory board to improve the diversity of social studies curricula.
I want to take what I’m learning and make it pragmatic enough to apply outside of the academy. I hope to build community–to make history accessible, especially in the city and to the African-American community.