This story was written by Chuck Wasserstrom and was originally published as a UTC News Release.
Four University of Tennessee at Chattanooga students, all minoring in Africana Studies or studying African American history, are the inaugural recipients of a newly created scholarship.
In 2021, the Dr. Russell Linnemann Memorial Endowment in History to support Africana Studies in the Department of History was established by Linnemann’s longtime friend, Bill Epstein.
The endowment provided $500,000 to support the study of African and African-American history and the history of the blues to honor the career and academic contributions of Linnemann, who spent 36 years as a UTC professor before passing away unexpectedly in 2006.
“UTC provided academic and cultural support for 36 years to my friend, Russell,” Epstein said. “That support means a lot to me, and I wanted to acknowledge it with a contribution in memory of my friend.”
The first Linnemann Scholarship recipients are political science majors DaVeon Hall and Evelina Kertay, communication major Stephen Thomas and humanities: women, gender and sexuality studies major Victoria Thomas.
“The Africana Studies program is grateful to have the resources to recognize the exceptional work and accomplishments of some of our outstanding students and to support them in their work here at UTC,” said Julia Cummiskey, assistant professor of history and interim director of Africana Studies. “The inaugural class of Linnemann Scholars has set a high standard for future generations of UTC students of Africana Studies and African American history.”
Linnemann taught African and British Empire History at UTC and was a scholar in concentrations such as Western Civilization, African History and Modern European History, but he was celebrated for his courses on the blues, for which he was affectionately known as “The Blues Doctor.”
Along with his teaching duties, Linnemann was the longtime host of WUTC-FM/88.1’s “Blues and More,” a show that gained national notoriety for the National Public Radio affiliate.
The Linnemann Scholarship awardees provided testimonials about receiving the honor. Here is an excerpt from each of their statements:
Political science major, Africana Studies minor
“History has always been a part of my life. My grandmother used to tell me stories all the time about our family history as well as Black History. I was always fascinated, confused and shocked by some of the stories I would hear. History is like that, though; it’s being able to learn and understand the past accomplishments and the past hardships and appreciating them for everything that they are. I love that.
“This is why I am minoring in Africana Studies, to understand and learn about all things about people of African descent. I will always be passionate about the history of my people, and I will always be willing to tell the amazing stories that were taken away from them. I am honored and appreciative to be awarded the Dr. Russell Linnemann Endowed Memorial Fund from the UTC History Department. This scholarship gave me the boost I needed to keep pushing and pursuing my—and my ancestors’—wildest dreams.”
Political science major, Africana Studies minor
“Political science is my major and Africana Studies is my minor. For me, because a lot of political science is about understanding political processes, the two subjects support and interconnect with each other.
“Political systems, as well as the systemic aspects of race, have had a significant impact on the history of race in America. And in turn, this racial history is foundational to many American political systems. So it is essential to understand this interplay in order to create effective policy and radical political change. Africana Studies, in particular, is an important subject, and I was surprised and excited about being a Linnemann Scholarship recipient.”
Communication major, history minor
“I chose to minor in history because I have always been passionate about it. From an early age, history has always interested me, and when I decided to come to UTC, I just had to continue to educate myself. One of the benefits of being in the history program here is that I have always been challenged to think more critically and understand the importance of the past and how it affects us.
“Being a recipient of this scholarship means so much to me. It really encourages me to continue to pursue studying history, and I feel honored to have received this scholarship.”
Humanities: Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies major, Africana Studies minor
“I find the Africana Studies program at UTC to be not only engaging but also empowering. Through this program, I have broadened the scope of my knowledge wider than ever before through exposure to diverse literature and deepened my understanding and appreciation of the invaluable, indelible contributions Black people and Black culture have made to the country and the world. With my degree, I hope to someday become an influential activist, journalist and scholar through educating and advocating for my community.
“The Linnemann Scholarship has aided me immensely with helping pay for my classes this year. Without this scholarship, it would be much harder to finish my program and reach my goals. I am so incredibly grateful for it and honored to have received it.”