Honors and Awards

W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies Predoctoral Candidate Awarded Prestigious Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship

AMHERST, Mass. – Maya Cunningham, predoctoral candidate in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, is one of 75 outstanding scholars to be named a 2022 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellow.

The fellowship award will provide an annual stipend for three years, an invitation to attend the Conference of Ford Fellows and access to key networking resources including the Ford Fellow Regional Liaisons, a network of former Ford Fellows who have volunteered to provide mentoring and support to current fellows.

Maya Cunningham
Maya Cunningham

“When I started my academic journey, I never dreamed I would receive the Ford Fellowship,” Cunningham says. “It’s magnificent. It’s an honor.”

A two-time Fulbright recipient, Cunningham is an ethnomusicologist, an Africanist/African Americanist scholar, a cultural activist and a Black music practitioner in jazz vocals. Her research focus is on culturally responsive music education for African American students, African American cultural identity and intersections between African/African American identities and traditional African and African American music.

Cunningham, who was selected from a pool of more than 1,800 applicants, says the fellowship “opens doors and serves as a platform for being able to deeply influence programmatic structures on the state level, on the national level, on the local level and at institutions.”

Her book chapter, “The Hush Harbor as Sanctuary: African American Survival Silence During British/American Slavery,” was featured in a Bloomsbury collection called “Sonic Histories of Occupation: Sound and Imperialism in Global Context,” which was released in January 2022. She is also the author of several other book chapters and articles, including “The Sound World of Harriet Tubman” in Ms. Magazine and “A People In Flight: African Americans in Movement,” in Smithsonian Folkways Records.

Cunningham received her master’s degree in Afro-American Studies from UMass Amherst and was previously named one of the university’s Research Enhancement and Leadership (REAL) Fellows, which provides summer support to outstanding doctoral and MFA students from historically underrepresented groups.

The Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship is administered by the Fellowships Office of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The program seeks to increase the diversity of the nation's college and university faculties by increasing the number of professors who can and will use diversity and equity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.

For a full list of Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellows, visit nationalacademies.org. To learn more about Cunningham’s research, visit ethnomusicologyinaction.org.