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February Spotlight: Doctoral Student Carlyn Pinkins

February 28, 2018

Carlyn N. Pinkins, (MA 2011, Georgia Southern University) is a PhD student in history with a current interest in African American History in the Southwest and 20th Century American Indian history. As she approaches her comprehensive exam, Carlyn is examining ways to contribute to the scholarship on Blackdom, the first African-American town in New Mexico. Blackdom’s founder and one of his students walked nearly 2000 miles from Georgia to New Mexico with the dream of founding a town for and by black people. The stories of Blackdom’s founders and families and their interactions with black cowboys, Buffalo Soldiers, and their neighbors reinsert people of color into narratives of the West where they were previously excluded. They also disrupt the tri-heritage narrative of New Mexico that excludes other people of color who settled here. Carlyn, who left her family and lots of friends back home on the East Coast, connected with the founder’s sense of adventure and the possibility of learning more black pioneers in the West. While conducting research, she even learned that the founder of Blackdom was from her home county in Georgia!

Carlyn chose to attend UNM to continue research on pre-AIM, local Red Power activism in the area. She considers it a real privilege to work with professors and peers with expertise and experience in this activism. UNM’s position in a borderlands area has illuminated many of the current realities for Indigenous peoples on and off-campus as well.     

Although she originally planned to pursue an academic tenure-track position, her recent experiences working with the African American Museum and Cultural Center of New Mexico have steered her toward museum work.  Even in teaching and research, her goal has always been to change the way people see themselves and their neighbors in our shared history.  Museum work offers more creative ways of teaching and learning in settings that are open to more people.

Her best experiences thus far have come from being a graduate consultant with the Graduate Resource Center for six years, meeting new folks and helping her peers complete their degrees. These opportunities to help others do well has bolstered her own academic confidence.

When asked, “If you could change the world in some way, what would you do?” Carlyn responded she would eliminate all poverty and destroy institutions that promote inequality and division. “History doesn’t do that,” she said, “but if disseminated to people in the right ways, I believe it can change how people see themselves and their relationships to their neighbors who are different racially and ethnically. The imbalances of power that institutions promote are reinforced by the way history frames events and people for those who work in and support them.”

For additional spotlights of UNM graduate students, visit our Spotlight Page!