Moore awarded highly competitive National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship

Professor John K. Moore Jr., Ph.D., is conducting the first comprehensive study of a centuries-old legal case in Spain.

Written by: Tiffany Westry

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University of Alabama at BirminghamJohn Moore VerticalJohn K. Moore Jr., Ph.D. Associate Professor John K. Moore Jr., Ph.D., has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship.

The NEH funded only 7.5 percent of proposals received in this highly competitive cycle. Moore’s project is one of just 74 fellowships selected for funding out of 982 applications submitted to the NEH from across the nation.

“After having applied 10 times to the NEH, it is gratifying to finally have won one of these prestigious grants,” said Moore, who teaches Spanish in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures. “I hope the award brings further honor to UAB.”

The $29,400 grant will provide support for the completion of Moore’s bilingual edition and study of “His Majesty’s Prosecutor v. José Soller, Mulatto Pilgrim, for Impersonating a Priest and Other Crimes,” a previously unedited and unpublished legal case from late 17th-century Spain. Soller was traveling as a pilgrim from Lisbon, Portugal, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and had intended to continue from there to Rome, Italy, when he was apprehended in Ourense, Spain, in 1693 for impersonating a priest. Moore’s review of the case reveals Soller pretended to be a priest after apparently having been imprisoned numerous times during his travels because authorities assumed he was a runaway slave due to his skin color. In addition to his crime of impersonating a priest, the prosecutor was expressly offended that he committed an act of offense against the holy priesthood as a “mulatto” man. This body of work will be the first study, edition and translation of the case.

Moore says the case of Soller gives the world a rare window into the real-life challenges a person of black African descent faced in Europe and the broader Atlantic world after the Renaissance and shows the lengths to which one man was willing to go to try to escape discrimination.

“There is only one autobiography written in Spanish by a formerly enslaved, Afro- decended person,” Moore said. “Documents such as this legal case become all the more important for telling us about the de jure and de facto treatment of people of color in early modern Spain and the Americas.”

The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent federal agency that supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. The grants help expand the range of humanities-based resources and educational opportunities in underserved communities and institutions. NEH funding also helps preserve important objects and collections representing America’s cultural heritage.