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2016 Ford Foundation Fellowship

Lisa J. Young was named a Ford Foundation 2016 Dissertation Fellowship. The Ford Foundation seeks to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing their ethnic and racial diversity, to maximize the educational benefits of diversity, and to increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students. Lisa will receive a one-year $25,000 stipend, expenses to at least one Conference of Ford Fellows, and access to Ford Fellow Liaisons. 

Lisa J. Young

Lisa Young

School of Interdisciplinary Studies (American Studies)
Research Focus: Race, Housing Segregation, Environmental Injustice, Medical Humanities
Undergraduate Institution: Claflin University


Young, Lisa and Mangala Subramaniam. “Ecocritical Consciousness Meets Oppositional Consciousness: Reading Early Chicago Activism through an Environmental Lens.” Sociological Focus. Forthcoming.

Morris, Pamela, Shalyse Tindell, Lisa Young, and Eric O’Rear. “Teaching Assistant Perspectives on a Diversity and Social Justice Education Course for Collegiate Agriculture Students.” North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA). Forthcoming Spring 2017.

Brown, Nadia and Lisa Young. “Ratchet Politics: Moving Beyond Black Women’s Bodies to Indict Institutions and Structures.” National Political Science Review. 17.1 (2015).

Bynum, Cornelius and Lisa Young. “A. Philip Randolph and the Pullman Porter’s Union.” The American Middle Class: An Economic Encyclopedia of Progress and Poverty. Ed. Robert S Rycroft. Forthcoming 2017.


  • University of Chicago, Black Metropolis Research Consortium Summer Fellowship

  • NEH Digital Humanities Summer Institute, “Space and Place in Black Studies: An Institute on Spatial Humanities, Theories, Methods, and Practice for Africana Studies.”

  • Purdue University, Promise Research Award

  • Purdue University, Office of Interdisciplinary Graduate Programs, Most Outstanding Interdisciplinary Project Award Honorable Mention 


“Lethal Housing: Racial Restrictive Covenants and Urban Black Women’s Grassroots Health Activism, 1930-1980” examines Black women’s contributions to housing justice through public health by tracing the ways Black women writers frame how racial restrictive covenants operated as environmentally hazardous agents in the lives of Black people. Restrictive covenants were contractual clauses in housing deeds prohibiting the selling and occupation of a home based on race.

Using archival data from the radical Black Press and literature, Lisa shows how Black women writers and journalists engaged in a project of equipping readers with a kind of urban environmental literacy that mobilized early forms of grassroots health activism against housing inequality. Lisa argues that Black women writers used these mediums to reflect what they saw as a biopolitical, environmental crisis created by residential segregation, thereby forming an indictment against restrictive covenants in ways that the Supreme Court failed to do.

Lisa is currently working on two projects, “Tracing Early Black Purdue Student Experiences with Housing Segregation, 1894-1960: A Story Map” and “Mapping Black Women’s Grassroots Health Activism in Chicago from 1930-1980”. The first project, “Tracing Early Black Purdue Student Experiences with Housing Segregation, 1894-1960: A Story Map” is the culmination of local archival work on restrictive covenants in West Lafayette, which Lisa began as a Master's student in 2011. It reveals a more comprehensive account of the early Black Student experience on Purdue's campus, particularly through the lens of their struggles dealing with housing segregation. Her second project, “Mapping Black Women’s Grassroots Health Activism in Chicago from 1930-1980” is a digital map that will use geospatial technology and multimedia to tell a visual story about Black women’s health activism in Chicago during the twentieth century.

How did Lisa select her current projects?  When Lisa arrived at Purdue, she enrolled in an archival theory course examining the local history of West Lafayette. She became interested in the Black student experience at Purdue and designed a residential database archive identifying where Black students stayed before being allowed to live on campus. While working on this project, Lisa learned about the presence of racial restrictive covenants in housing deeds in various areas throughout town. After a course with Professor Bill Mullen on the Chicago Black Renaissance and reading Purdue Professor Anne Knupfer’s book, The Chicago Black Renaissance and Women’s Activism, Lisa began to think more deeply about the roles urban Black women played in combating restrictive covenants and housing inequality, particularly through the avenue of health activism. These experiences shaped her research.

Lisa choose the Purdue Liberal Arts American Studies program because it offered her new resources, exciting opportunities, and the chance for her to work closely with some brilliant faculty in the field. Becoming a Ford Foundation Fellow provides Lisa a platform to share her work on restrictive covenants and housing segregation with others.  

Lisa is thrilled to join a network of top scholars who are critically attentive to finding solutions for social justice and diversifying the academy.  Lisa stated, “I am also excited about the potential to use my research to help demonstrate the role of the humanities in addressing complex, real-world issues."