The Chloe Center for the Critical Study of Racism, Immigration, and Colonialism is an interdisciplinary forum focusing on the intersections of empire, migration, and racial hierarchy. To explore these issues, the center hosts workshops and symposia, facilitates student publications, and offers research grants. The Chloe Center supports reparative freedom education among students, faculty, and staff on campus and across Baltimore.

Who’s Chloe?

“I give and bequeath to my servant woman Chloe the sum of one thousand dollars.”

The Last Will and Testament of Mr. Johns Hopkins (1873)

The historical record remains unclear about Chloe’s last name. It’s listed variously in documents as Jotsy, Dodson, or Johnson. She may have been daughter to a teenage migrant from the Virgin Islands, and she seems, at least, to have been born in Baltimore. Beyond what can be inferred, historians know she lived as a black woman and remained in the employ of Mr. Johns Hopkins between at least 1850 and his death in 1873. In Mr. Hopkins’s available Last Will and Testament, the woman named only “Chloe” received a bequest of $1,000. This very same document set aside $7 million establishing the Johns Hopkins institutions. According to census records, it appears, further, that Chloe never gained the ability to read or write.  

The Chloe Center for the Critical Study of Racism, Immigration, and Colonialism has adopted Chloe’s name because it is a research center committed to expanding social and civic literacy, to unmasking the workings of racism across the globe, to understanding the complexities of Johns Hopkins University’s institutional legacies, and to highlighting the connectedness within and across communities of color.

To adopt the name Chloe is to honor her, but also to recognize a tragic but fitting absence in her erased family name. The vagueness around Chloe’s possible migrant heritage and ancestry encapsulates the specificity of her personal history as a black Baltimorean, as well as the more general experience of working people who across generations and often great distances worked to build the nations, empires, and institutions of the modern world. Chloe’s many unknowns affirm the Center’s commitment to search and research. They cement its bond to the history and responsibilities of Johns Hopkins as a global university. 

The Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship

The roots of the Chloe Center extend to 2006, when Political Science faculty members Michael Hanchard and Erin Aeran Chung founded the Program in Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship (RIC). It focused on providing a forum for graduate students to explore how racial hierarchies interact with migration flows to shape understandings of citizenship, debates on national identity, and practices of democratic inclusion and social exclusion.

RIC emerged at a critical period in both academic and world history, when the reconfiguration of the international political economy, migration flows, and political conflicts defied national and even regional solutions. The global dimensions of migratory flows in the last century created common dilemmas for countries in every region of the world, at various stages of development. In places as distinct as Japan, India, Britain, France, the United States, Brazil, and South Africa, governmental officials struggled to classify and incorporate new populations into existing, often outdated, structures while dominant, minority, and migrant groups negotiate the political, economic, and social challenges of increasing diversity amidst rapid change. RIC thus emphasized cross-regional comparisons, especially among societies and polities that are often overlooked in existing scholarship on race and ethnicity.

Over time, RIC grew to encompass additional disciplinary and methodological perspectives, bridging the humanities and social sciences to provide opportunities for students and faculty to convene on shared topics of interest. The program sponsored annual graduate conferences, bringing students from around the country and across the globe to Johns Hopkins, while also engaging in more localized programming, such as the annual Living Hopkins roundtable, which focused on pressing concerns in Baltimore and on campus, such as Black-Asian solidarity, the growing threat of white power violence, or rethinking Baltimore as an “immigrant city.”

Graduate student training constituted a significant part of the teaching mission of RIC-affiliated faculty. Pre-dissertation, dissertation, and job market workshops offered by affiliated faculty provided our graduate students guidance and training to supplement existing resources available through their home departments as well as a structured environment for students in different disciplines to build a strong peer community based on overlapping intellectual interests and mutual accountability. Working groups, organized semi-autonomously, facilitated intensive and cross-disciplinary conversations on topics of shared interest, most notably, in recent years, the Anti-Racist Alliances working group.

RIC Since 2020

Beginning in 2019, Nathan Connolly and Stuart Schrader became the director and associate director, respectively, of RIC. And since 2020 graduate fellow Sherharyar Imran has been an integral member of the team. During the campus closure due to Covid-19, this leadership team facilitated the publication of “Freedom Education,” a series of interviews with prominent intellectuals in Public Books, by Johns Hopkins graduate students. And it has been responsible for a wide range of unique and interdisciplinary—or even postdisciplinary, as we like to say—programming on campus and beyond. Programming themes have included Black-Asian Solidarities, Abolition Without Borders, and Freedom Education.

After the uprisings of 2020, with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in concert with other units on campus and in Baltimore, RIC became one of the pillars of Inheritance Baltimore: Humanities and Arts Education for Black Liberation. This multi-year grant allowed significant expansion of the program’s offerings, including new postdoctoral fellowships, graduate and undergraduate research grants and fellowships, a long-term multi-team research project called “Racism and Repair,” K-12 educational programming, and much more.

Critical Diaspora Studies

In 2021, RIC became newly engaged with undergraduate students on campus through what became the Critical Diaspora Studies (CDS) initiative and proposed undergraduate major. This initiative began with a coalition of undergraduate and graduate students responding to the Atlanta spa shootings in March 2021 that killed eight individuals, six of whom were Asian women. From this tragedy arose the political energy and demand for Johns Hopkins University to create academic spaces that would reflect the diversity of its student body and address the lived realities of diaspora, race, indigeneity, colonialism, imperialism, and solidarity. Originating in demands for greater Asian-American, Latinx, and other diasporic curriculum on campus, the CDS team of students developed the forward-looking idea for a new major that would enable a form of critical ethnic studies beyond ethnicity.

Students in the major will choose among these tracks: Migration and Borders, Global Indigeneities, Empires, Wars and Carceralities, and Transnational Movements and Solidarities. The major also will emphasize community-engaged research and internships with partners in Baltimore, serving as a model for bidirectional relationships between students and the city. As of February 2024, the CDS major proposal has been approved by the Homewood Academic Council and will be submitted to the Maryland Higher Education Commission. 

The Chloe Center, through the CDS initiative, as well as its graduate student–facing activities, operates with a participatory and democratic principle. College curriculum and university programming, we are proving, can be determined through extensive and deliberate conversation and consensus among students and faculty, and the Center aspires to include and respond to the ideas, hopes, desires, and demands of students.

Looking Forward

The Chloe Center for the Critical Study of Racism, Immigration, and Colonialism replaces “Citizenship” with “Colonialism” in RIC’s original name. This change represents an important expansion of the program’s intellectual emphasis. It pushes The Chloe Center beyond our earlier reliance on the administrative and comparative vocabulary of the nation-state. At the same time, the term allows RIC’s previous comparative questions on migration and peoplehood to be maintained. Most critically, emphasizing colonialism investigates the transnational and imperial forces arrayed against those communities and political identities either uninterested or prohibited from particular processes of national belonging, including Indigenous polities across the globe.

With the launch of the Chloe Center in 2024, Stuart Schrader has become the new director, supported intellectually and practically by Sheharyar Imran and undergraduate fellow Natalie Wang, and the Center has expanded its faculty advisory board, with members now from Africana Studies, Anthropology, English, History, Political Science, and Sociology. Further growth is planned.

The future of the Chloe Center is bright. Planned programming includes continuing and expanding RIC’s robust roster of activities and co-sponsored events, including graduate professionalization and methodology workshops; a dissertation-writing workshop; research and travel grants and fellowships; exhibitions; film-screenings; public panels and symposia; distinguished speaker grants; publications; courses and events at the Hopkins Bloomberg Center in Washington, DC; and more.

“Research. Education. Reparation.” These three words continue to guide the Chloe Center for the Critical Study of Racism, Immigration, and Colonialism.