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Evan Howard Ashford

Ph.D. Candidate, W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies

My name is Evan Howard Ashford (prefer to be called Howard). I was born in Florissant, Missouri but was raised in Kosciusko, Mississippi. I attended the Kosciusko School system and graduated in 2004 as class Valedictorian (the first African American to hold that distinction since the school system integrated in 1971). I attended Mississippi State University from 2004-2010 earning my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and my Master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration. I graduated from Jackson State University in 2013 with a Master’s degree in History. I am currently a doctoral student in the W.E.B. Du Bois African American Studies Department on the history and politics track. I am also a doctoral student in Public Policy and Administration at Walden University.

At a young age, I was fascinated by history. I began officially researching my family history at the age of 11. My goal was to find as much information as possible and piece together the puzzle that was my family’s past. Over the almost 19 year course of my research, I have been fortunate to obtain a variety of records from numerous sources that have helped me to detail over 35 African American genealogies. My work has uncovered voting records, land ownership, resistance to white violence, and social activities of African Americans in one county spanning from 1860-1940 that give a more detailed account of African American living that goes beyond the traditional historical narrative of Jim Crow. My interest in photographs has resulted in my collecting over 400 photographs depicting nearly 700 African Americans born between slavery and 1955. In 2014, I published my first book series, The Unshackled Past series which provides a detailed statistical layout of a family’s ancestry from slavery to 1940. I want to show that African Americans had their own identity that was not dictated by the unjust elements or the social constructs of the society in which they lived. I believe it is important for people of all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds to have a different perspective of the African American experience beyond notable historical figures and generalizations of African American history.

I chose the Public History certificate program because I believed that the program would allow me to take my research to a higher level which has revolved around archiving, preservation of damaged documents and photographs, curation, and heritage interpretation. I also seek to learn other elements of public history that I have not been exposed to on an in-depth level. It is my goal to successfully merge my research with African American Studies and Public History to bring a different perspective of the African American experience in Mississippi to the general public, providing new education that can be used to enhance individuals’ understanding of the past, present, and future.

eashford@umass.edu