Scholartist. Historian. Professor.
Scholartist. Performing Historian.
"A scholartist* bridges the misperceived gaps between theory and practice, the body and the mind, academia and arts/entertainment. From performances to the published word, my scholartistry uses every creative tool at my disposal to research the past and to share compelling, untold historical stories with audiences. Simply put, I have to do the thing to understand the thing. And the thing might end up being a feature length film, a song, a dance, or the virtually unknown."
- Dr. Amma
Photo by Bret Hartman/TED.
*Scholartist is a term credited to performance studies colleagues Joseph Shahadi and Mila Aponte-Gonzalez.
THIS IS DR. AMMA
Born to Ghanaian immigrants in Tuskegee, Alabama and raised in Kansas, “Dr. Amma” is a scholartist*, writer, performer, and producer who transforms historical material about black identity into performances for the stage and screen. Named a 2019 TED Fellow, she bridges the worlds of academia and arts/entertainment—having worked for A&E® Networks/The History Channel, National History Day, Inc., and as a professor. Her current projects are an historical musical about black performers in the 1901 World’s Fair entitled, AT BUFFALO, and a book about the relation between laughter and the American slave experience, entitled Laughing after Slavery: The Performances and Times of Laughing Ben Ellington. Her hyper-collaborative creative research projects have garnered numerous fellowships and awards including a 2019 MAP Fund Grant, a $45,000 Innovative Seed Grant (CU-Boulder), a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Fellowship, etc. She is also a co-recipient of a 2020 Honorable Mention for the National Council on Public History’s Outstanding Public History Project Award for her co-direction of [the Georgia Incarceration Performance Project]. Her educational work for the History Channel's Peabody award-winning documentary Save Our History: Voices of Civil Rights received a 2006 Beacon Award. The History Channel also selected Dr. Amma to join the ranks of Ang Lee and Gloria Estefan as one of 37 extraordinary immigrants/children of immigrants whose stories are currently featured at Ellis Island’s Museum of Immigration. Dr. Amma holds an A.B. in Afro-American Studies from Harvard University and an M.A./Ph.D. in Performance Studies from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.