As a child growing up in the nearby town of Winchester, Dr. Hannah Huber remembers exploring Sewanee’s campus while her mother worked as a registration specialist for the School of Theology Extension Center. She marveled at the gothic architecture, the breathtaking landscape, and the stately gowns of the professors, imagining one day that she might work among them.
“I found it fascinating that this intellectual world existed so close to the small town I grew up in,” Huber said.
Despite this, she left Franklin County behind as she began her academic career, majoring in journalism at the University of Tennessee and going on to acquire her Masters degree in English from the University of Memphis and her Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of South Carolina. She then served as a postdoctoral fellow in digital humanities at the University of Illinois Chicago.
Upon completing her fellowship, Dr. Huber sought a position in digital humanities and cultural studies and found herself once again on the Domain. She accepted the position of Digital Technology Leader and Project Administrator for the University’s Center for Southern Studies, funded by the Mellon Foundation. Her role centers on collaborations with faculty engaged in digital humanities research and pedagogy related to southern studies. Dr. Huber began the position in fall of 2020 and worked mostly from home due the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite being remote, Dr. Huber quickly discovered that the Roberson Project on Slavery, Race, and Reconciliation was abuzz with digital humanities initiatives.
She was soon at work helping develop the Save Sewanee Black History project, an archival effort to digitally display memorabilia from African Americans in the Sewanee area. Having returned to Franklin County as an adult, this project led Dr. Huber to realize how little she knew about the area’s racial history and how that reflected a broader gap in the dominant cultural memory. She was determined to do the work of knowing and sharing the history of Black communities in the region.
“The African- American history of Franklin County was never taught to me,” Huber states, “I need to help fill in those gaps so that young people in Franklin County get that history, get the history that I didn’t get and that I’m striving to learn now.”
Black stories of resilience and uplift like those featured in the Save Sewanee Black History Project are “so compelling and empowering.” But they are ones that have been historically ignored. Therefore, she plays many active roles to combat this and make Sewanee and the surrounding community aware of the inspiring and “rich” stories which took place all over the region.
Huber and Woody Register, Director of the Roberson Project, were recently featured on local radio stations in Winchester and Cowan to encourage local explorations of Franklin County’s Black history. She also hopes that “Sewanee will lead by example” in recognizing the racial oppression which has plagued the history of the U.S. South. One of the focal points of her mission is to recapture the authenticity of Ely Green’s manuscript. Ely Green was a man of mixed race growing up in Sewanee in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and his story provides invaluable first-hand insight into the complexities of his time. Because his editors considerably altered his writing for a white audience, Dr. Huber is working with the Roberson Project to recenter Green’s voice in order to make the local community more aware of the areas of their history which have gone largely ignored.
In addition to collaborating on digital humanities projects, her job at the Center for Southern Studies involves day-to-day management of the Center, working on her book project and digital companion that is under contract with the University of Illinois Press, and as of this year, teaching. This fall, she is teaching a literature-themed course for the Finding Your Place program, and in the spring, “Literature and Digital Culture.” In these classes, Huber invites students to collaborate on the Ely Green Project and learn more about making humanities research more accessible in a digital age and to become more digitally literate in the process.
When asked about her favorite books, Huber was reticent about declaring a favorite. She settled on a recent, exciting read: The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles. As far as all-time favorite novels go, Huber noted Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston as one of many. She is a fan of science fiction from Kurt Vonnegut to Octavia Butler, and she showed absolutely no difficulty in naming her favorite television show: the HBO Western Deadwood. One of her favorite movies is Clueless, and favorite pastimes are reading and attending indie rock concerts.
Dr. Huber lives on the outskirts of Nashville, with her husband and one year old son named Thatcher. Although it is a long commute, it is made easier through her parents who live in Winchester. But the long drive is worth it because she appreciates the smaller, more personal classes at Sewanee, because she can develop better relationships with her students and pay individual attention to them when needed.
“It’s refreshing to switch into a classroom space that just has such a small amount of students…I’ve gotten to know all of you a lot more intimately than I’ve had the chance to with my bigger classes in the past.” Huber said.
As a native to the area, she is always amazed by the shared love for Sewanee that she has with people who come from far away.
“Seeing the fascination that new students have with this campus and seeing that people who aren’t even familiar with the area come here and are captivated by Sewanee,” which is why she said “it was fitting that I started out teaching Find Your Place.”
Dr. Huber, is not only a teacher, mother, reader, and live music fanatic, but also a custodian of local community history, encouraging her students to study the past through an inclusive lens and to bring to light regional voices that have yet to be heard.