The USC Libraries Collections Convergence Initiative has named its inaugural Floyd Covington faculty fellow. Allissa V. Richardson, an assistant professor of journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, will integrate primary-source collections on anti-racism, social justice, and allied topics into two graduate-level courses.
Richardson, whose research focuses on how marginalized communities use mobile and social media to produce innovative forms of journalism, has taught at USC Annenberg since 2017. She is the author, most recently, of Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones, and the New Protest #Journalism(Oxford University Press, 2020).
Last summer, in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, Richardson participated in a listening session with USC Annenberg students. Based on those conversations, she developed a new Reporting on Race and Justice track within the school’s Specialized Journalism Master’s program that will include a revamped version of JOUR 595, titled Critical Thinking, and a new course, JOUR 580, Reporting on Race and Justice.
With support from the Covington fellowship, Richardson will now work with library faculty, including librarians Suzanne Noruschat and Chimene Tucker, to introduce rare library materials to students in both courses.
“The opportunity to work alongside our esteemed librarians, to enrich our syllabi, is an amazing way for the university to invest in social justice,” said Richardson. “By delving into the collections less perused, I will help my students highlight new frames for today’s biggest stories about race—and pay homage to those who came before them.”
Professor Nayan Shah of USC Dornsife co-chaired the Covington Fellowship Selection Committee with Professor Josh Kun of USC Annenberg.
“We are pleased,” Shah said, “that the inaugural Covington Fellow has an energetic and capacious vision to incorporate USC's rich collections of Black and Latinx journalists to teach her MA journalism students about the ethics, struggles and investigative strategies employed to uncover and report the systemic injustices of both the past and the present.”
The Covington fellowship emerged out of conversations among Collections Convergence Initiative disciplinary faculty partners and library faculty, including Professors William Deverell and Josh Kun, Southern California Studies Specialist Suzanne Noruschat, and Exile Studies Librarian Michaela Ullmann.
Deverell, who directs the Collections Convergence Initiative, commented on the goals of the Covington fellowship: “To receive such a timely, engaged, and even urgent proposal like this—in these times—reminds us that the past and the present are in the same house, in the same room, with one another. We can’t know the future. But we can know the past better, in order to make the present better. That’s what this work and this fellowship are all about.”
As fellow, Richardson plans to consult a wide range of collections, including the papers of Latinx journalist Ruben Salazar and the records of an independent commission that investigated the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of the 1991 Rodney King beating. As steward of the USC Libraries’ regional history collections, librarian Suzanne Noruschat will help her sift through hundreds of archival boxes for materials relevant to the two courses.
“Professor Richardson’s proposal to revamp and develop new courses for a Reporting Race and Justice track within Annenberg’s Specialized Journalism master’s program aligns perfectly with the goals of the Floyd Covington Fellowship,” Noruschat said. “I and my colleagues at the USC Libraries look forward to supporting her effort to make use of primary sources to expand and diversify the scope of journalistic studies at USC.”
Named for the long-time head of the Los Angeles Urban League, the Floyd Covington fellowship marks the recent arrival at the USC Libraries of the civil rights leader’s papers. It includes two tracks. Another faculty fellow in the first track, Inventive Instruction Using Primary Sources, will be announced soon, and the Covington Fellowship Selection Committee is currently accepting applications for the second track, Primary Source Research through April 1. Details are available in the call for applications.