Jillean McCommons

  • Ph.D. Student
  • Teaching Assistant
  • History
  • African American and Africana Studies
  • Appalachian Center
Research Interests:

M.S., University of Michigan, 2007

M.A., University of Wisconsin - Madison, 2003

B.A., Michigan State University, 2000


Jillean McCommons is a Ph.D. student in History at the University of Kentucky. A Detroit native, she spent most of her youth in the rural Black communities of Stanislaus County, California. After finishing her B.A. at Michigan State University, she taught English as a Second Language in rural Northeastern Brazil. She earned a M.A. in Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian Studies with an emphasis in Afro-Brazilian history from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and a M.S. in Information from the Univeristy of Michigan. Prior to returning to graduate school in 2017, she worked as a public librarian in Michigan, California, Minnesota, and Kentucky. Her Op-Ed columns have been published in the Lexington Herald-Leader, the History News Network, and Newsweek. She is recipient of the Lyman T. Johnson Fellowship, the Robert S. Lipman Graduate Fellowship, and the 2018 Eller & Billings Student Research Award.


My research explores the political and cultural history of Black Appalachians during the Black Power era. 

Advisor: Dr. Anastasia Curwood

Conference Presentations

"Recovering the Lives of Black Banjo Players: The Case of John Homer Walker." African Americans in Western North Carolina & Southern Appalachia Conference, University of North Carolina, Asheville, North Carolina, October 2017.

"Black Appalachian: The Construction of a Regional Identity." American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, November 2018. (Panel organizer: Black Appalachia: Garveyism, Youth Protest, and Identity in the 20th Century.)

Selected Publications: 

"Cabbell Gave Voice, History, Activism to Black Appalachians," Lexington Herald-Leader. June 6, 2018. (Op-Ed)

“Black Women Are Eagerly Using the Votes They Fought For,” Newsweek. December 29, 2017. (Op-Ed)

"Manuel Querino" in The Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas. 2nd Edition. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, December 2005.



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