Fiona Vernal is a native of Trelawny, Jamaica and grew up in Trenton, New Jersey. She earned her BA in history with a certificate in African American Studies from Princeton University in 1995 and her MA and PhD from Yale. After completing her doctoral work in December 2003, she served as director of African Studies at Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, Michigan. Since 2005 she has taught at the University of Connecticut’s Department of History where her courses focus on precolonial, and colonial Africa, the history of South Africa, slavery, and the African diaspora. Since 2015, her teaching pedagogy has shifted to incorporate inquiry-based learning and human rights practice, yielding the exhibits: “Children of the Soil: Generations of South Africans under Apartheid” (April 2016) and the upcoming “Child Labor and Human Rights in Africa” in 2018.
Her book, The Farmerfield Mission (Oxford, 2012) explores the relationship between African Christian converts, European missionaries, and the politics of land access, land alienation and the “civilizing” mission of African social and economic improvement in nineteenth century South Africa.
Dr. Vernal consults with the Connecticut Historical Society on oral history projects including an exhibit documenting and recording the impact of 9/11 on Connecticut victims, families, and first responders: September 11, Connecticut Responds and Reflects. A second exhibit documented the history of West Indian migrants to the greater Hartford’s area: Finding a Place, Maintaining Ties: Greater Hartford’s West Indians, with a successor exhibit premiering at the West Indian Social Club of Hartford on June 10, 2017 entitled “A Home away From Home.” She is currently engaged in a preservation and photo documentation project on Caribbean migration to greater Hartford.