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Professor Thomas Healy

Professor Thomas Healy Awarded a New Grant

A new book explores the rise and fall of Soul City, a concept developed and nurtured by a civil rights leader in the 1970s


Adding to his recognition by the Guggenheim Foundation and by Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Professor Thomas Healy has just been awarded a Public Scholar Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Public Scholar program supports books in the humanities intended to reach a broad readership and have lasting impact. Books supported by this program must be grounded in humanities research and scholarship and address significant humanities themes likely to be of broad interest and written in a readily accessible style.

The Grant will support Professor Healy’s current project, Soul City: The Lost Dream of an American Utopia, which explores the rise and fall of Soul City, a concept developed and nurtured in the 1970s by civil rights leader Floyd McKissick. It was designed as a model of black economic empowerment and to help relieve the blight of the northern ghettos. The planned city was to be built on an abandoned slave plantation in rural North Carolina and was to reflect the latest thinking in social policy and urban planning. Despite support from the Nixon administration and various private organizations, the plan ran into stiff resistance from conservatives, including Senator Jesse Helms, and was abandoned after 10 years.

“Soul City was one of the most important projects to grow out of the civil rights movement, yet it is now largely forgotten as both a concept and a place,” said Professor Healy, a native of North Carolina and a former reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer, which played a central role in Soul City's demise.

The National Endowment for the Humanities’ Public Scholar Program was established in 2015 and in its first year of existence, program received 485 applications but made only 36 awards.

Professor Healy is the Gerard Carey Research Fellow at Seton Hall Law, where his teaching and scholarship focus on issues related to Constitutional Law and, specifically, the First Amendment. His acclaimed first work, The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind – and Changed the History of Free Speech in America (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2013), won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award, and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities Book Award. Professor Healy received his B.A. in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his J.D. from Columbia Law School.