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Chen and Williams Appointed as Fellows

Michelle Chen and Charnan Williams

The ILR School has appointed a pair of faculty fellows – Michelle Chen and Charnan Williams – to the Department of Labor Relations, Law, and History for the upcoming academic year. The positions are the first in what will be a yearly appointment going forward.

“It’s a big investment in the future of labor history, both at ILR and in the history profession,” said Professor Louis Hyman, who ran the search on behalf of the department. “We’re excited to be a platform for young scholars in the field.”

Chen comes to Cornell following a year as a visiting assistant professor at Bucknell University, where she taught a U.S. history class. Before that, she was a lecturer at City University of New York, where she also earned her doctorate in history in 2019.

Her dissertation, “’Americans All’: The American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born, Immigrants’ Rights, and Defending the Constitution Under the Red Scare,” focused on the pioneering of a framework of constitutional rights and legal protections for immigrants persecuted and threatened with deportation due to their links to the labor left.

During her time at Cornell, Chen plans to study social movements of the early and mid-20th century, migration and the intersection of urban culture and labor.

Williams, who recently earned her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, most recently served as a Friends of the McNeil Center for Early American Studies Dissertation Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. Her work reconsiders the role of race, freedom and slavery in the American West.

Her dissertation, “A History of Free Labor, Race, and Slavery in California from the Gold Rush to the U.S. Civil War, 1848-1865,” deconstructs the myth of a free and equal California during the antebellum period through the end of the Civil War.

Williams intends to use her time as a fellow at Cornell to turn her dissertation into a book.

Chen and Williams will teach classes during the 2022-23 academic year.

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