Our Ph.D Candidate, Kathleen Brown, has received a 2024 Robert J. Donia Human Rights Center Graduate Student Fellowship to complete research for her project, "Breaking the Embargo: Humanitarian Aid as Political Defiance."

Kathleen holds masters degrees from Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to Michigan, Kathleen taught high school in the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Germany.

The project “Breaking the Embargo: Humanitarian Aid as Political Defiance,” examines four US-American based internationalist campaigns which have attempted to ease humanitarian crises through direct action. These campaigns have often explicitly - and proudly - defied their government’s embargos and blockades, putting activists under the glare of state repression. This includes the mainly African American “Hands of Ethiopia'' campaign which attempted to defend the sovereign African nation against Mussolini’s assault in 1935, followed by the North American Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy and the American Medical Bureau’s efforts to send goods and medical personnel to Spain, with particular attention paid to the contributions of the Negro People’s Committee to Aid Spanish Democracy. Decades later, the Central American Solidarity Movement organized aid caravans and professional brigades to interrupt Reagan’s trade blockade against Nicaragua throughout the 1980s. Organizations such as Nicaragua Network (NicaNet) and the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CIPSES) directly repudiated the United States’ anti-Communist “dirty war” and its attendant human rights abuses through people-to-people missions. Following this, the interfaith group Pastors for Peace broke the US trade and travel embargo on Cuba by sending a “Friendshipment” of food and medical supplies when the country was ravaged by the post-Soviet “special period” in 1992. The project ends with a consideration of the connections between these campaigns and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, which attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza in 2011 by delivering aid by sea, only to be repelled by deadly force.


Congratulations Kathleen!