Malinda Maynor Lowery named second Cahoon Family Professor in Emory College

By April Hunt | Emory Report | June 9, 2021

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Historian and documentary film producer Malinda Maynor Lowery will be the second Cahoon Family Professor in American History. A member of the Lumbee Tribe, Lowery has focused much of her work on questions of Native culture, identity and migration. Photo courtesy UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Acclaimed historian and documentary film producer Malinda Maynor Lowery has been named the second Cahoon Family Professor in American History in Emory College of Arts and Sciences.

A member of the Lumbee Tribe, Lowery has focused much of her scholarly research, award-winning books and films on questions of Native culture, identity and migration. She will join the faculty and begin teaching this fall while also helping strengthen the presence of Native and Indigenous studies at Emory.

Malinda Lowery is nationally renowned as a historian and a scholarly leader,” says Michael A. Elliott, dean of Emory College of Arts and Sciences. “I am thrilled to welcome her as a colleague who will play an important role in shaping the future of the university and its engagement with Native American studies.”

As the recipient of several grants and fellowships, including a New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lowery also produced the Peabody Award-winning “A Chef’s Life” series on PBS and premiered two short films at the Sundance Film Festival.

She is currently a history professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she also serves as director of UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South.

Working within a deeply interdisciplinary field, Lowery says she was drawn to Emory for the emphasis on cross-department collaborations and the opportunity to add cultural context to a variety of fields and student experiences.

“Indigenous studies is not a field for a small population of people. It’s a foundational way of seeing the world that can shape a lot of fields,” says Lowery, who first book, “Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South,” was named Best First Book in Native American and Indigenous Studies by the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

“I view history from the standpoint that we are someone else’s ancestors,” she adds.  “The study of our past and even our present can help us constructively shape what we want our society to be in the future.”

Cahoon Professorships

The professorship in American history is the second one endowed by Susan Cahoon 68C, an emeritus trustee. Cahoon enrolled in Emory College at age 15 and, as a nationally recognized debater, helped Emory’s Barkley Forum win its first national debate championship in 1967.

Cahoon graduated with highest honors in economics in 1968, then earned a law degree with honors from Harvard. She became the first female partner at Kilpatrick Townsend, where she continues as the firm’s general counsel.

In 2008, Cahoon endowed the first Cahoon Family Professorship in American History to honor her family. The Cahoon Family Professor in American History is now held by Patrick Allitt, who specializes in religious, intellectual and environmental history.

“Professors can profoundly influence generations of students,” Cahoon says. “They are the true lifeblood of a university, and by supporting them as scholars and teachers, I support an exceptional Emory experience for many.”

Joe Crespino, the department chair and Jimmy Carter Professor of History, helped recruit Lowery to Emory. He notes that she was recently elected to join the Society of American Historians and to the board of the American Council of Learned Societies, signs that she will be an immediate campus and  community leader.

“She is a model of the citizen scholar. I can’t imagine a better person to take up the mantle of the Cahoon Family Chair,” Crespino says.

Lowery says she is especially eager to begin working with undergraduates — she will teach a course on the legal history of Native populations during fall semester — after being “blown away” by a student exhibit this spring at the Carlos Museum.

“The liberal arts are the foundation of every other kind of knowledge,” Lowery says. “I can hit the ground running with undergraduates who are accustomed to that and able to synthesize and write on a high level.”