Who is Kelli?

I am a PhD candidate in History and African American Public Humanities Fellow at the University of Delaware. My research focuses on objects created by and historic interiors inhabited by Black people of the urban, northeastern United States, especially Black girls and young women. By looking at everyday objects, I question what more can we further discover about the lived experiences and influences of Black Americans in the physical spaces they inhabited during the late 18th and early 19th centuries as they fought to be acknowledged as American citizens worthy of equal rights. I am also interested in exhibition design and interpretive planning centering the history and material culture of the African diaspora in the museum.

Previously I was an interior designer and historic preservationist at a leading, WBE architecture firm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I enjoyed my work, but the lack of scholarship on Black material culture and the lack of acknowledgement of the mere presence of Black, Indigenous, Asian, Latinx, people of color in historic educational spaces that I visited and read about drew me back to school to study and alter for future generations.


Please visit the Sew What podcast to hear my conversation with Isabella Rosner about my research on samplers made by Black schoolgirls in the 18th and 19th centuries:

Sew What Podcast - Screenshot

Please visit the Voices of Change podcast to learn more about the life of Alice Dunbar Nelson. In episode 6, I spoke with Dr. Alex Ames, Melissa Benbow, and Mariam I. Williams about uncovering the lives of Black American people, especially women, in the archives.

Voices of Change Podcast Screenshot

Head shot photograph by: Anishkumar Soman

Header courtesy of Johnston, Frances Benjamin, photographer. [African American schoolgirls in classroom, learning to sew]. Washington D.C, 1899. [?] Photograph. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2001699118/. (Accessed October 07, 2017.)