Faces of Rhodes
By Lydia Holmes ′14
Dr. Charles Hughes
Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow
One of the four pillars of the Rhodes College Vision is “to enhance student opportunities for learning in Memphis,” and that is exactly what Dr. Charles Hughes is doing in his new role as the Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow for the college’s recently launched Memphis Center.
A native of Wisconsin, Hughes focused his doctoral research at the University of Wisconsin on the relationship between country and soul music, and African-American and white musicians in recording studios in Memphis, Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
As the Memphis Center postdoctoral fellow, Hughes teaches History classes related to the area’s rich culture, organizes new programming and continues his research on the region. He is currently researching the career of the Staple Singers, the impact of rural electrification projects on popular music, and the activities of the National Association of Television and Radio Announcers, an all-black activist organization that made a major impact on the recording industry in the 1960s and 1970s.
“I really feel fortunate,” he says, “because I’ve come in at a time when there’s already a lot of real energy and a lot of thinking that has gone into the Memphis Center, so I’m helping with plans that are already in progress and then also we’ve kicked around some ideas that we want to do in future.”
The Memphis Center, which was seeded with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is designed to be a lively working space where faculty and students collaborate on new and existing projects, and together build a community of engaged scholars who are interested in a wide variety of topics related to the human experience of Memphis and the Mid-South region, from the Civil War to the civil rights movement and beyond.
More specifically, the Memphis Center serves as an umbrella for Rhodes’ existing Memphis and Mid-South-focused academic initiatives, including the Mike Curb Institute for Music, the Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies, the Center for Outreach in the Development of the Arts (CODA), the Rhodes Learning Corridor, the Crossroads to Freedom Digital Archives, the Rhodes Archeological Field School at Ames Plantation, and the Shelby Foote Collection.
According to Hughes, the Center, which has new classroom, meeting and office space in the college’s Paul Barret Jr. Library, “is a place where Rhodes’ goal to combine exceptional classroom experiences with community-based learning opportunities is fully realized.”