About Me

I received my Ph.D. in Cuban History with a specialization in Oral Histories from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2018. My book project, and Cuba’s Anglo-Americans in Times of Revolution digital archive explore how, in the context of revolution, contact between U.S. nationals and Cuba’s marginalized communities at once reproduced existing hierarchies and cultivated opportunities for intergroup solidarities. My research makes two major contributions to understandings of the Cuban Revolution and U.S. cultural imperialism. First, my work centers a new set of actors, institutions, and relationships in the narrative of informal empire in Cuba, drawing particular attention to the importance of rural missionaries who worked alongside Cuba’s marginalized communities to contest the hierarchies that organized Cuban society. Second, this project exposes how Cubans, Haitians and West Indians on the island altered the identities and commitments of U.S. nationals in the midst of the struggle against Fulgencio Batista, and later the revolutionary government.

For the past two years I have served as an adjunct professor at Guttman Community College. Beginning in the academic year 2018–2019, I have collaborated with a wide range of community college students on designing, collecting and archiving oral histories from the people who helped clear their paths to college: ancestors, activists and community members. Together, in 2019, we established the Guttman Community College Undergraduate Oral History Project. We have gathered nearly 100 oral histories from elders—as pedagogy and historic method—to cultivate in students a sense of themselves as knowledge producers, and to build an archive for the College. In Spring 2020 I received the ACLS/Mellon Community College Fellowship to continue digitizing this collection while also producing a book of student collected oral histories, which will be edited in collaboration with undergraduates. I used this experience to publish a chapter titled “Conducting Interviews” as a part of an Open Educational Resource (OER) textbook for community colleges. This motivated me to work promoting the use of OER materials at Guttman where I have assumed responsibility as the OER Campus Coordinator. Future projects include organizing a revision of an OER American Government and Politics textbook with Guttman faculty to be more relevant, and more affordable for our students.

In 2019 I became the Director of Oral Histories on “A History of the Present” grant, a five-year longitudinal inquiry of 90 Latinx middle–high schoolers navigating NYC schools. The project, School in the Square: Urban Youth Navigating High School in New York City, involves a research team of university faculty, my current and former community college undergraduates from Guttman and 12 latinx high schoolers who we are training in oral histories.

In addition to these NYC based projects, I have served as an advisor who participated, with a select group of Guttman students, in the Texas-based HBCU Truth & Reconciliation Oral History Project, led by Black Christian organizations and Historically Black Colleges, dedicated to gathering testimonies from communities struggling to contest historic and modern manifestations of white supremacy. These endeavors led to a grant titled Civic Engagement and Immigration Struggles, funded by Bringing Theory to Practice, which culminated in a university conference of faculty, community members, undergraduates and high schoolers presenting their work on oral histories at “Encuentros in the Borderlands: Activism, Critical Youth Research and Obligations of the University” to document struggles for racial and immigrant justice. 

Contact: Samuel.Finesurrey@guttman.cuny.edu