Ramin Ganeshram and Kevin McGruder Win 2024 Rollin Fellowships

Ramin Ganeshram (left) and Kevin McGruder (right).

Ramin Ganeshram and Kevin McGruder are the winners of the 2024 Frances “Frank” Rollin Fellowship for biographical works-in-progress that make a significant contribution to our understanding of the Black experience.   

Ramin Ganeshram won for her biographical project Stirring Liberty: How George Washington’s Enslaved Chef Transformed American Cuisine and Secretly Cooked His Way to Freedom, a biography of Hercules Posey. Fortuitously after the fact, her proposed book was sold to Simon & Schuster’s 37 Ink imprint.     

Kevin McGruder won for his project Rudolph Fisher: Harlem’s Interpreter. Fisher’s concurrent medical and literary careers in the 1920s and 1930s made him a pivotal contributor to the storied intellectual and cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance.   

Ramin Ganeshram is an award-winning journalist and historian who is currently the Executive Director of the Westport Museum for History & Culture (formerly Westport Historical Society) in Westport, Connecticut. Ganeshram’s area of study is colonial-era American history, particularly focused on enslaved African Americans and mixed-race people. Research for her 2018 novel, The General’s Cook, led Ganeshram to discover the real-life fate of Hercules Posey, the chef enslaved by George Washington, and solving a 218-year-old historical mystery.   

For her work as curator of Westport Museum’s 2018–19 exhibit, “Remembered: The History of African Americans in Westport,” Ganeshram received the prestigious award for Leadership in the Museum Field from the New England Museum Association (NEMA). The exhibit also won awards of merit from the Connecticut League of History Associations (CLHO) and the coveted Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).   

In 2019, Ganeshram was also awarded the Paul Cuffe Memorial Fellowship for the Study of Minorities in American Maritime History. She is a 2022/23 Fellow at the Fred W. Smith Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon. Ganeshram is currently working on a book about how the Caribbean influenced North American cuisine as part of the Atlantic Trade.   

Kevin McGruder a native of Toledo, Ohio, is an associate professor of History at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Harvard University in 1979; after moving to New York in 1982, he earned an M.B.A. in Real Estate Finance from Columbia University, and subsequently earned his doctorate in U.S. History at the Graduate Center of City University of New York. In the 1980s and 1990s, he worked in nonprofit community development in Harlem, including as Director of Real Estate Development with the Abyssinian Development Corporation, an affiliate of the famous Abyssinian Baptist Church.   

Over the years McGruder also owned and co-owned two retail shops—Home to Harlem and Harlemade Styleshop, respectively—whose books, products, and social programs particularly celebrated the Harlem Renaissance.

From 2011 to 2012, McGruder was a scholar-in-residence at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where his doctoral dissertation expanded into the book Race and Real Estate: Conflict and Cooperation in Harlem: 1890 to 1920 (Columbia University Press, 2015). His next book was Philip Payton: The Father of Black Harlem (Columbia University Press, 2021), a biography of the founder of the Afro-American Realty Company.   

Named for Frances (“Frank”) Anne Rollin Whipper, one of America’s first recorded African American biographers, BIO’s Rollin Fellowship seeks to help remediate the disproportionate reflection of Black lives and voices in published biography and to encourage diversity in the field. BIO launched the Rollin Fellowship in 2020 and first presented an award of $2,000 to a single winner in May 2021 and again in 2022. As of May 2023, with a generous donation from Kitty Kelley, BIO increased the award to $5,000 each for two winners. The fellowship also awards the recipients a year’s membership in BIO, registration to the annual BIO Conference, and publicity through BIO’s marketing channels. This year’s Rollin Prize Committee consisted of Eric K. Washington (chair), Tamara Payne, and Rachel L. Swarns.