Bertoti Conference

The Brian Bertoti Innovative Perspectives in History Graduate Research Conference

Since 1998 HGSA has organized a conference annually for graduates students in history from VT and from other MA and PhD programs. Our conference is an opportunity to share graduate research projects in a supportive, professional environment, and a chance to network with your future colleagues.

The conference is named after a former student who sparked interest among his peers to create a venue for public presentation of student research. Brian Bertoti died before planning for the first conference was completed. The conference name acknowledges his interest in studying the past and his commitment to sharing that study with others.

The conference is a major undertaking and all HGSA members play a role – hosting invited keynote speakers; inviting papers and creating conference panels; attending to local arrangements; advertising the events; and soliciting funds to cover conference expenses.

Our 24th Anniversary Conference:  March 19-20, 2021

We’re going virtual for our 24th anniversary conference! On March 19-20, 2021, we will host the Bertoti Conference via Zoom.

Our conference is an opportunity for graduates and advanced undergraduates to share research projects in a supportive, professional environment and a chance to network with future colleagues. Our conference values interdisciplinary approaches to the past, and we invite proposals from historians and students in related disciplines whose work represents “innovative perspectives in history.” Presentations on any aspect of history, time period, or world region are welcome.
For papers, please submit a one-page abstract and a short vita. For panels, please provide a paragraph describing the theme of the panel, an abstract for each paper that will be presented on the panel, and a short vita for each presenter. Paper and panel proposals are due by January 21, 2021. Please send them to our Panels Committee at

Brian Bertoti Award

Each year, HGSA acknowledges the best paper presented at the conference with the Brian Bertoti Award for Outstanding Historical Scholarship. To be considered for this award, participants must also submit their paper at presentation length (roughly 10 pages) to the Panels Committee by March 10, 2021. The paper selected for the best paper prize will represent exemplary scholarship, innovative methods, and unique perspectives in the historical discipline. Only graduate students are eligible for this award.

Conference Speakers

Megan Kate Nelson will deliver the keynote address on Friday, March 19. Her address, titled “History as Imagination: Dispatches from the Writing Life,” will discuss how to craft narrative histories and how to navigate historical work outside the academy.

Nelson is a writer and historian living in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Her new book, The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West, will be published by Scribner in February 2020. This project was the recipient of a 2017 NEH Public Scholar Award and a Filson Historical Society Fellowship. Nelson is the author of two previous books: Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Georgia, 2012) and Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (Georgia, 2005).

She has also written about the Civil War, the U.S. West, and American culture for the New York Times, Washington Post, Smithsonian magazine, Preservation magazine, and Civil War Times. Her column on Civil War popular culture, “Stereoscope,” appears regularly in the Civil War Monitor.

Matt D. Childs, associate professor of history at the University of South Carolina, will deliver the luncheon address on Saturday, March 20. His address is titled  “An African City in the Americas: Reframing Colonial Havana as a West African Port City, (1762–1867).” In it he will explore how the culture, history, and identity that Africans brought with them to Cuba influenced their experiences under enslavement from the 1760s to 1860s.

Professor Childs is the author of The 1812 Aponte Rebellion in Cuba and the Struggle against Atlantic Slavery, which was a finalist for  the 2007 Frederick Douglass Book Prize and translated and published in Cuba in 2012. He has coedited with Toyin Falola The Yoruba Diaspora in the Atlantic World and The Changing Worlds of Atlantic Africa: Essays in Honor or Robin Law.

Childs served as an associate editor for the six-volume Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. With James Sidbury and Jorge Canizares-Esguerra he has coedited The Urban Black Atlantic during the Era of the Slave Trade. Professor Childs has published articles in The Journal of Latin American Studies, The Americas, The Historian, The History Workshop Journal, and the Latin American Research Review, among other journals.

Lydia Kelow-Bennett is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. She will deliver the luncheon address on Friday, March 19. Her areas of teaching and research interest include U.S. Black feminist thought, U.S. Black popular culture, and Black cultural studies. She is currently working on a book manuscript that critically examines Black feminist engagements with Black popular culture in the 21st century.

Dr. Kelow-Bennett has served on the Governing Council of the National Women’s Studies Association as Co-Chair of the Women of Color Caucus, and is currently on the Advisory Board of the Women of Color Leadership Project through NWSA. She is also trained as a doula, and cares deeply about reproductive justice and Black parental and infant health outcomes.