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UA Little Rock Professor Awarded $5,000 Grant from American Council of Learned Societies

Nathan Marvin
Dr. Nathan Marvin

Dr. Nathan Marvin, assistant professor of history at UA Little Rock, has received a $5,000 grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). 

The ACLS awarded Marvin a 2024 Project Development Grant. They are designed to support scholars in teaching-intensive faculty roles whose research is poised to make important contributions to knowledge in the humanities and interpretive social sciences.

“ACLS is committed to expanding opportunities for faculty with significant teaching responsibilities to pursue their research agendas,” said John Paul Christy, ACLS senior director of US Programs. “Project Development Grants recognize exceptional scholarship while offering flexible support to meet the specific needs of each awardee’s project.”

Marvin’s research project is entitled, “Bodies for the Care of Souls: Slavery and the Colonial Clergy in the French Empire, 1764-1848.” He will use the grant to travel to France in the fall to conduct research of archives related to the Catholic Church’s history in the Caribbean Sea.

“I am hoping to write the first historical overview of slavery as practiced by Catholic orders and congregations in the French colonial empire,” Marvin said. “To take just one snapshot in time, according to my research, over 3,000 men, women, and children lived on properties owned or managed by corporate entities of the Catholic Church across France’s global empire at the end of the 18th century.”

Marvin was one of 15 grant recipients representing a large range of institutions and fields of humanistic inquiry, including anthropology, ethnic studies, history, languages and literature, musicology, philosophy, religious studies, and sociology.

Marvin has been researching this topic for more than a decade, working to gather information about the enslaved people who built and labored in Church-run mission stations, schools, hospitals, and plantations across the French Colonial Empire.

“Their labor facilitated and sustained French colonial expansion,” Marvin said. “In the French empire, the map of slaveholding by Catholic clergy is truly global, extending from Nova Scotia to New Orleans, the Caribbean, French Guiana, and the Indian Ocean.”

Additionally, the book aims to center the lives of enslaved people and to reconstruct their families and lived experiences through a critical reading of the records kept by the clergy and other state entities.

“Some of these men and women left behind amazing stories of resilience and resistance,” Marvin said.

One of these stories is about a man named Amand, who was a slave living on a church-owned plantation at the beginning of the French Revolution on Reunion Island.

“Amand refused to give up his pew at Mass for a white parishioner. For this act of bravery, he was arrested and beaten by police,” Marvin said. “Then there is George Biassou. Along with his mother Diana, he spent much of his life as enslaved property of a group of priests who ran a hospital in colonial Haiti. Both played crucial leadership roles in the Haitian Revolution, the largest slave revolt in history.