History-Literature Major Wins Lankford Award for Thesis Work

The award recognizes outstanding students with accomplishments in the history and literature disciplines.

By Cara Nixon | May 29, 2024

History-literature major Milo Wetherall ’24 has won the prestigious William T. Lankford III Humanities Award for his thesis work on the memorialization of the Paris massacre of 1961.

The award, honoring Prof. Bill Lankford [English and humanities 1977–83], recognizes accomplishments in the history and literature disciplines and is given to students with outstanding academic records and strong potential for further achievement. 

Milo’s thesis, “‘C'était en plein Paris’: Remembering the Massacre of October 17th, 1961,” focuses on the Paris massacre of 1961, when Algerian colonial subjects, who had been peacefully protesting against racist police violence and French colonial rule, were killed by city police. Hundreds were murdered, but the scale of the massacre was obscured by the French government for decades. In his project, Milo looks at three works from the 1990s that attempt to bring public attention to the event: a journalistic account of the night of the massacre by historian Jean-Luc Einaudi; a documentary by filmmakers Agnès Denis and Mehdi Lallaoui; and a novella by author Leïla Sebbar.

“I am honored to receive the Lankford Award,” Milo says. “I would like to thank my thesis adviser, Prof. Catherine Witt [French 2005—], and my first reader, Prof. Liz Matsushita [history and humanities 2022—], without whom I would not have been able to do this work.”

Milo originally came to Reed never having studied French. But through the French and history departments, he was able to take French classes and study abroad for a semester in Paris, making historical and literary research in the language possible. 

With his thesis, Milo investigates how historical narratives can be politicized, and how underrepresented communities counter silence about state violence through literature. Though the project focuses on the later half of the twentieth century, Milo says there are connections to be made to events happening today.

“The current situation in Gaza underscores the continued relevance of the study of literature and history in relation to state violence,” he says.

Next, Milo will be working at a bookstore in San Francisco before heading to France to work as an English language assistant through a French Ministry of Education program. Milo says he’s excited to teach English and U.S. history while simultaneously improving his French language skills. After the program, he hopes to go on to graduate school to continue his thesis research.