Newest Americans Receives NEH Grant To Support Neighborhood Immigrant History Project and Newark History Bus Initiative

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Newark, NJ: Newest Americans, a digital storytelling initiative based at Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N), has been awarded a Community Conversations grant of $310,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities. This grant will support media production for documenting the (im)migrant histories of three Newark neighborhoods, media training in Newark high schools, public humanities programming, and a Newark History Bus that will serve as a mobile neighborhood museum and digital media lab.

Newest Americans is a collaboration between RU-N, Talking Eyes Media, an award-winning social documentary production company, and VII Photo (an internationally renowned collective of photojournalists). In this innovative partnership, professional journalists, media-makers and artists work alongside RU-N faculty and students to research, produce and disseminate stories that chronicle the (im)migrant experience from the vantage point of the university that U.S. News & World Report has for the past two decades designated the most diverse campus in the United States.

The project cross-pollinates academic inquiry, professional media production and public humanities programming to explore the histories and stories that define our shifting national culture. Based in Newark, NJ, a city shaped by migration, the project affords a glimpse into the world of the newest Americans and a vision of our demographic future.

“Receiving an award of this size from the NEH is a game-changer for Newest Americans in multiple ways. We are particularly grateful for the NEH’s acknowledgement of the value of humanities scholarship and digital media that is place-based and multi-vocal, and that asks questions about both the past and the present from a wider perspective,” says Dr. Tim Raphael, director of the Center for Migration and the Global City at RU-N and co-founder of Newest Americans.

The project features a multimedia digital magazine (, high school and college curriculum, and public humanities programming that addresses the diversity of the immigrant experience in America, as well as the cultural impact of the Great Migration, the largest internal movement of people in United States’ history. Rooted in Newark, Newest Americans documents local stories with national and transnational significance, and the work has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic, in local and national touring exhibits, and at numerous film festivals. &

NEH support will enable Newest Americans to expand its coverage of three Newark neighborhoods—The Ironbound, University Heights and the West Side—in order to closely engage local residents in researching and representing their rich (im)migrant narratives. The History Bus will utilize state-of-the-art technology to share audiovisual materials for an immersive experience of these pilot neighborhoods. Community events will include a series of neighborhood dialogues, Unconferences, and “History Harvest” events over the next year, and skills and tools training for Newarkers to represent the local histories that matter most to them.

“The future of America can be found here in Newark and at Rutgers-Newark today,” says Rutgers University – Newark Chancellor Nancy Cantor. “Our collective story will be written in the stories of the newest Americans alongside those of the children of long-time residents, as they grow up in our neighborhoods—stories of aspiration reaching back to those who took a long march from the South to the North in prior centuries and the generations of immigrants thereafter who came from diasporas all over the world and keep coming in search of a better opportunity, freedom, justice. Perhaps now more than ever, as our nation is so deeply conflicted over difference, it is critical for the health of our democracy that we share these stories, so we are grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for making it possible for us to do this profoundly important public humanities work.”

For more information about Newest Americans, contact Tim Raphael at

Project Partners:

The Center for Migration and the Global City at Rutgers-Newark (CMGC) is an incubator for multidisciplinary scholarship, innovative pedagogy, and civic engagement that addresses both the global and local dimensions of contemporary migration. Situated on the Newark campus of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, CMGC is particularly interested in how global migration has impacted, is impacting, and will impact the Newark region and the state of New Jersey. The Center fosters research in and on immigrant communities across academic disciplines and generates collaborative academic and civic partnerships between Rutgers faculty, immigrant communities, and the organizations that serve them.

Talking Eyes Media is an award-winning production company based in New Jersey that strives to stimulate public dialogue and advocate for positive social change through visual storytelling. The organization produces documentary films, photography, websites, books, and exhibitions that turn a probing eye on social challenges and innovative solutions. Talking Eyes’ work has been featured in such major media outlets as National Geographic, PBS, Time magazine, DiscoveryNew York Times, and the company has worked closely with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation,, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation among others. The organization’s founders, Julie Winokur and Ed Kashi, have served on the faculty of the International Center of Photography in New York.

VII Photo is a visual documentary collective representing some of the world’s most accomplished photojournalists. VII’s archive of over 60,000 photographic images, and their prolific dissemination through leading magazines and newspapers, online and in numerous influential books and documentaries, has generated an iconic visual history of the landmark events and stories that define the visual memory of our times.

Newest Americans is a partner in Express Newark, a university – community collaboratory in the historic Hahne & Company building. A conceptual framework and an interdisciplinary learning space Express Newark houses the Newest Americans; the Form Design Studio; the Design Consortium; Visual Means; Shine: a portrait studio; the Community Media Center; the Newark Print Shop; and the Paul Robeson Galleries. In Express Newark, artists and community residents collaborate, experiment, and innovate in partnership with Rutgers University – Newark faculty, staff and students with the goals of engaging in public work, creative practice and democratic dialogue in order to promote positive transformation.