Publication Date

May 23, 2023

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily


African American

Meya Elizabeth Hargett is an associate professor and diversity faculty fellow at Bakersfield College. She lives in Bakersfield, California, and has been a member since 2020.

Meya Elizabeth Hargett

Meya Elizabeth Hargett

Twitter: @ProfHargett

Instagram: @professorhargett

Alma maters: AS (letters, arts, and sciences), Antelope Valley College, 1998; AS (administration of justice), Antelope Valley College, 2004; BA (multimedia and film production), Polk State College, 1997; BA (criminology), California State University, Bakersfield, 2007; MA (history/education), Grand Canyon University, 2022

Fields of interest: people of color in western territories 1800s–1900s, African American ancestral heritage, ethnic studies, criminology, forensics, multimedia film production

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?

After working in juvenile court and community schools for 14 years, I became a certified Freedom School teacher with the Children’s Defense Fund, but I wanted to do more for my community. I decided to get my master’s in history and volunteer for the AmeriCorps organization simultaneously, while continuing my research on my family heritage. This is where I discovered my passion for western territorial studies and the need to expand, recognize, and document the missing remnants of people of color during that historical era.

What do you like the most about where you live and work?

What I like most about where I work is the makeup of the students on campus. It is truly a campus of diversity and inclusion. I hope to be a key party in adding to the equity on campus through Bakersfield College’s Diversity Faculty Fellowship Program under the direction of Dr. Maria Wright and my Diversity Faculty mentor Prof. Patricia Smith.

What projects are you currently working on?

My current research involves a long-awaited mechanism for the descendants of slaves to trace their ancestry from the antebellum era to the present. On my mother’s side of the family, we were always free; that ancestor translated for the slave ships entering the ports of the Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore. He spoke five African languages and this afforded him his continued freedom. He married an Irish immigrant and for over 40 generations every first born since has been female; I am in that direct line. The next project begins on my deceased father’s side in the Carolinas. as several streets and lands bear my last name. For instance, the plantation belonging to General Frederick Hargett, who fought in the American Revolution and participated in the creation of the state of North Carolina and portions of the American Constitution. He owned several slaves and sired my great-grandfather (times many). I then plan to research the Black Hargett Street, which is now a historical landmark. I discovered all the information and documentation that I have gathered over the years is directly connected to me, the first-born, direct-line descendant of the general. My documented process may help other descendants of slaves discover their heritage through the combination of several techniques. I hope this project can help not only a new generation but an entire community in the same way I remember watching Alex Haley’s Roots on television in 1977 for the first time. This has continuously been my research motivation.

What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research

The slave schedules that bear my family’s last names, with some wills stating the value of other family members at $0 after a wicker chair valued at $2. Finding out that birthday parties are held on a former plantation some of my relatives previously resided on. The actual text of General Fredrick Hargett establishing the Carolinas, stating, “how free they are and how they will rule.” The award-winning and now historical landmark of Black Hargett Street in Wake County, North Carolina, that still houses doctors, lawyers, and business entrepreneurs from the Black community started by my family on the black Hargett side. Both the white Hargetts and Black Hargetts in both Carolinas have been blood kin for 400 years, and I shall tell that story.

Why is membership in the AHA important to you?

The AHA is a great tool for networking and increasing one’s knowledge within the field of historiography. The opportunities for academic authorship and scholarship are also quite extensive. Finally, the AHA’s care of true inclusivity is appreciated.

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

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Matthew Keough
Matthew Keough

American Historical Association