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Samantha Baskind Named NEH Fellow

Noted art historian will conduct study on the life and work of Moses Jacob Ezekiel 

Samantha Baskind, a professor of art history at Cleveland State University, has been selected as a 2020 Research Fellow by the National Endowment for the Humanities. One of the highest awards that humanities scholars can receive, the prestigious fellowship provides funds for scholars to undertake year-long, comprehensive studies on areas of cultural and artistic significance. Baskind will conduct the first book-length, scholarly assessment of Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a noted 19th-century sculptor best known for creating the 25-foot tall monument to Religious Liberty in Philadelphia, and the Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery.

“I would like to thank the NEH for this tremendous opportunity,” Baskind says. “I am thrilled to have my work included among the prominent individuals who have been selected over the years.”

Baskind is an internationally-recognized expert in modern Jewish art and culture with a particular focus on examining how the works of American Jewish artists have been impacted by their dual identities. Through her study of Ezekiel, she will seek to reconstruct his body of work, explore the influence of his Jewish identity on his art, and more broadly, to investigate the country’s effort to memorialize the Confederacy, through art, in the years after the Civil War. Baskind will also assess how his ideas and art continue to impact modern society, particularly through the ongoing controversy over removing Confederate monuments from public places.

“In his day, Ezekiel’s art was acclaimed around the western world but now he is critically neglected. The reasons why he has been forgotten to history are complicated. He was a devout ‘Southerner’ who served with the Confederate army during the Civil War and became a friend and confidant of Robert E. Lee,” Baskind notes. 

“Unfortunately, Ezekiel’s influence on both American art and his push to celebrate the ‘Old South’ have not been properly examined or fully acknowledged by modern scholars,” she adds. “It is my hope this study can expand understanding of his important role in American art history as well as provide insights that could inform current debates over how we memorialize the past.”

This is Baskind’s second year-long NEH research fellowship and she is the only CSU faculty member to ever receive the award twice. Her sixth book, The Warsaw Ghetto in American Art and Culture, was published in 2018.