Clemson University Associate Professor of English Rhondda Robinson Thomas first became interested in Jane Edna Hunter in 2007 after reading Hunter's autobiography, A Nickel and a Prayer. Dr. Thomas was intrigued not only by the story, but also by the fact that the book was not well known either in academic circles or by the public at large. As she became more interested in Hunter, she learned that A Nickel and a Prayer was out of print and that copies of the autobiography were rare and difficult to obtain--factors that partially account for Hunter's relative obscurity at present.
After completing her preliminary research on Hunter, Dr. Thomas wrote a proposal to develop and initiate a Clemson University Creative Inquiry project. Clemson's Creative Inquiry Program gives undergraduate students and faculty members the opportunity to work collaboratively on research projects. Creative Inquiry investigations, which are designed and team-led by the faculty member, can span over several semesters.
The Creative Inquiry Program approved Dr. Thomas's proposal for a project titled "Discovery and Recovery: Preserving the Literary Heritage of Black South Carolinians." The first class became the Jane Edna Hunter (JEH) Project, and it involved 12 undergraduate students over the course of two semesters.
As Dr. Thomas explained in her proposal, "Students who join this team will have the opportunity to recover and publish important out of print texts by African American South Carolinians, as well as significant historical documents related to African American life and culture in South Carolina. Our first project is the publication of the first edited and annotated edition of Pendleton, SC, native Jane Edna Hunter's autobiography A Nickel and a Prayer (1940). In her book, this descendant of slaves details her rise to become the founder of the Phillis Wheatley Association, a residential, employment, and cultural center for single African American working women in Cleveland, Ohio."