Remembering Prof. Angel David Nieves

Dear Community Partners, Students, Colleagues, and Supporters of the Reckonings Project,

With heavy hearts, we announce the passing after a brief illness of our beloved colleague, friend, and collaborator Angel David Nieves. Along with serving in multiple leadership roles at Northeastern, among them Dean’s Professor of Public and Digital Humanities, Professor of Africana Studies and History, and Director of the Humanities Center in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities (CSSH), Angel was one of four founding PIs (Principal Investigators) of Reckonings: A Local History Platform for the Community Archivist, a project funded by the Mellon Foundation, Northeastern University, and private philanthropy. Angel fundamentally shaped and spearheaded the work of the project with his deep commitment to using technologies and design in the service of social justice and to creating inclusive environments through collaboration and co-creation with historically underrepresented communities in Boston and New England. He inspired community partners, students, faculty, and staff to join the journey of studying harms and celebrating accomplishments and joy in fundamentally new and innovative ways.

Angel wore his many firsts lightly and with a deep commitment to mentorship, collaboration, excellence, and institutional transformation. To name just a few firsts, he was the first person of color in his doctoral program at Cornell University, one of the first to co-build 3D tools in the service of historical preservation and social justice, and the first person of color to serve as full professor in Northeastern’s History Department. With his deep commitment to oral history, he introduced with anthropologist Doreen Lee, community liaison Dzidzor Azaglo, and web developer/designer Greg Lord a new, award-winning interdisciplinary course, in which graduate and undergraduate students collaborated with Boston artists and jazz musicians to establish the Black Artists of Boston project. Angel worked tirelessly to use the resources of higher education to empower communities of color and to hold institutions accountable. At the same time, he inspired a great number of students, including numerous students of color, to pursue careers in higher education and cultural preservation with the aim of producing knowledge, reaching broad audiences, and giving back.  

For Angel, community co-creation, mentoring  students, and scholarship intertwined in a virtuous cycle. Among his many publications are An Architecture of Education: African American Women Design the New South and the award-winning People, Practice, Power: Digital Humanities Outside the Center, and articles in journals such as American Quarterly orThe Journal of Planning History. He inspired students to collaborate on presentations, workshops, and publications. Most recently, he was working on a digital book project, Apartheid Heritage(s): A Spatial History of South Africa’s Black Townships, that combines human rights violations testimony and 3D reconstruction technologies of sites damaged or destroyed by the apartheid-era regime.

Angel’s deep commitment to institutional transformation, access, and impact also led him to build a number of summer institutes for college teachers and community partners. At Hamilton College and Purdue University, he co-led “Space and Place in Africana/Black Studies: An Institute on Spatial Humanities, Theories, Methods and Practice.” At the University of Victoria, BC, he led a summer session annually since 2015 in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. At Northeastern, he co-led two NEH-funded summer institutes on Space and Justice in the Humanities, one in 2022 and one planned for 2024. In the midst of caring for and then grieving his life partner of 29 years, his husband Paul Richard Foote, who passed away in March 2023, Angel co-founded with Dorothy Kim from Brandeis University the Reckonings Summer Institute in Social Justice for community members and college teachers. The June 2023 institute and the follow-up work aim to empower community members to use a range of digital technologies to represent important and under-acknowledged histories on their terms. 

We dearly miss Angel’s infectious humor, astounding energy, and the many urgent messages that he always began with “Hi!  Howz’it?” and ended with “Peace.” The Reckonings Project can never be the same without Angel. And yet we know that one of the ways to honor Angel’s work and legacy is to continue to build projects and experiences with community partners, students, and colleagues. We will be in touch when there is an opportunity to celebrate Angel in person. 

With deep sadness,

Dzidzor Azaglo, Community Liaison
Kabria Baumgartner, Reckonings PI
Dan Cohen, Reckonings PI
Greg Lord, Assistant Director of Design
Uta Poiger, Reckonings PI