Friday, July 31, 2015

Mellon Scholars Program: "A life changing and motivating experience"

In a series of occasional blog posts, participants in our Mellon Scholars Internship and Workshop programs will introduce themselves, discuss their experiences at the Library Company, and share their goals for pursuing careers in the field of early African American history. This program is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

My name is Joshua Johnson, and I am a senior history student at Francis Marion University in Florence, South Carolina. In my own research I focus primarily on the time period from the end of the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. I have always aspired to be involved in history, whether it be in teaching, research, archives, or even something as deceptively simple as being a tour guide at a historic location. This is one of the reasons I applied for the Mellon Scholars Internship; this opportunity provided me personally not only with a wealth of previously unknown information but the skills and confidence to apply and hopefully get into a good graduate program. 

I’m currently planning to apply for graduate schools with African American history and/or studies specialties where I hopefully will be able to continue my research on Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement. I believe this internship has provided me not only with a great boost to my CV, but has helped me craft a fantastic application packet, work on my personal statement, and write a marvelous writing sample dealing with African American history. 

 
My research paper here has discussed the widely differing opinions of African-Americans throughout the early part of the 18th century focusing on statements regarding emigration to places such as Liberia, Haiti, Canada, and a number of other places. My research for this paper will help me counter the idea of the African American belief monolith: the popular perception that all African Americans believe and think the same way. This paper argues that within years of the end of the Revolutionary War and the nation’s founding, African Americans frequently debated whether to stay in the United States and fight for their rights, or to leave entirely. 

These four weeks at the Library Company and working with esteemed and established scholars has been a life changing and motivating experience.

Joshua Johnson
2015 Mellon Scholars Intern

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mellon Scholars Program: The Final Verdict

In a series of occasional blog posts, participants in our Mellon Scholars Internship and Workshop programs will introduce themselves, discuss their experiences at the Library Company, and share their goals for pursuing careers in the field of early African American history. This program is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“That which grows fast, withers as rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.”

My mother would always tell me to walk, don’t run before I fall. My mother meant that one day I would look up and ask “where has time gone?” As you can imagine, the concrete marks will show I was not an expert in waiting. Today, I find myself asking that very question, “where has time gone?”  

Four and a half years ago, I graduated from Jack Yates Senior High in Houston, Texas, and continued to the University of Houston, where I received my Bachelor of Science in Political Science. This journey redefined my purpose in life. With a passion for law, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer before I graduated high school. Other aspirations include teaching higher education and becoming a U.S Senator. During my undergraduate career, I chose courses that allowed me to incorporate my passion for law and public policy. Minoring in African American Studies, I focused on public policy regarding race and social justice. This led to my interest in the 2015 Mellon Scholars Internship Program, where I knew I would gain experience that would enhance my studies. Undecided between graduate school and law school, I applied to the program with the hope that it would help me to figure out which was the better option for me. Whether it would be law school or graduate school, I needed to gain experience in conducting research. Participating in the program is helping me to determine what I ultimately want to accomplish and leave as my legacy.

Researching the historical collection of archives at the Library Company of Philadelphia provided many ways to follow my interests in law, public policy, and race. For my research project, I chose to research how activists from Northern states influenced anti-slavery legislation. Previously unaware of the impact the North had on the Reconstruction Amendments, I structured my research to analyze the roots of activism in 18th- and 19th-century literature and rhetoric by black reformers and abolitionists in Philadelphia.


During my journey, I have alternated between the decision of going to law school or graduate school but now realize that I have the capability to do both.

Dominique Washington                                                                 
2015 Mellon Scholars Intern

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My First SDS Conference




"Disability Arts on Display" panel at Society for Disability Studies Annual Meeting, June 10-13, 2015.
Picture shows view of a panel of people from the perspective of an audience member. Three women and a man sit at a table covered with a black fitted tablecloth. A paper coffee cup with lid, metal water pitcher, a pile of lanyards, and a water bottle are on the table in front of the panelists.  Two screens, including one with closed captioned text, and a podium pushed against the wall are visible. In the foreground, audience members, including a female wheelchair user, are seated. The room contains beige paneled walls and patterned carpeting.
 

A few weeks ago, hundreds of disability studies scholars, advocates, and activists gathered for the 28th Annual Meeting of the Society for Disability Studies, June 10-13, 2015. I was fortunate to be one of the attendees on behalf of the Library Company, a recent institutional member in the Society as a result of the Common Touch project.

I looked forward to my attendance not only for the multiple sessions related to art and disability, but for the experience of a conference that proactively strove to be as universally accessible as possible. Images for power point presentations needed to be verbally described, closed captioning was standard, and large print copies of presentations were available for distribution.

Through my work with Common Touch project partners, I have become increasingly aware that accessibility standards are a benefit to everyone, disabled or not. Case in point for me at the conference was that more than a few times I glanced at the closed captioning for a word or name I missed while taking notes. Nonetheless, even the most concerted efforts for accessibility can sometimes fall a bit short as did the microphone cords for the Q&A’s. As one disabled panelist noted, even the disabled community can be unintentionally unaccommodating as she asked an audience member, who had vertigo, to come to the front to use the mic.

Not surprisingly, insights also abounded from the subject matter of the panel sessions. The panels on art and disability ranged from dialogues about self-representation of disabled persons in art; the nuts and bolts and challenges/ triumphs of organizing professional Disability Arts festivals; and the social/cultural implications of the stories and relationships pervading the materiality, aesthetics, and concepts of works of art by, depicting, or representing persons with disabilities to the benefits of subjective audio descriptions over objective ones.

To conclude my post, instead of expounding on one or two of the themes from the various panels, I thought I would  share some of the snippets and jottings from my notes that continue to resonate with me:

Disability as relationships as opposed to a medical versus social model

If disability is framed; disability frames us

Disability as transformation of “normal” body

Privileging disability vs. bridge building through disability in art

An original non-disabled body is non existent


Erika Piola
Associate Curator, Prints and Photographs
Co-director, VCP at LCP

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Female Physician: A Deviation from 19th-Century Gender Roles?



This is the tenth anniversary of the Library Company first working with an intern from Haverford College’s Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities. In their summers at the Library Company, each one has helped increase the digital resources we offer significantly. They have brought their own training in history, literature, anthropology, sociology, or art history to their projects in useful and thought-provoking ways. This summer we are very pleased to be working with history major David Zabliski, and look forward to another great outcome.

David Zabliski, Haverford College '17

Friday, June 26, 2015

Mellon Scholars Program: Restoring Our Historical Memory

In a series of occasional blog posts, participants in our Mellon Scholars Internship and Workshop programs will introduce themselves, discuss their experiences at the Library Company, and share their goals for pursuing careers in the field of early African American history. This program is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

My name is Hannah Wallace, and I am a rising senior at Temple University right here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Three years ago, through a desire to reexamine the intersecting realities race contributed to my own life as a biracial woman, I was drawn to take on African American studies as my major along with a minor in Sociology. This decision, though focused inward at first, revealed to me a mission—too great for one lifetime to achieve— to do my part in helping to restore the historical memory of African people throughout the diaspora. It is not enough to claim that African American children are miseducated by our school systems and through false representations of ourselves by popular culture. We must take serious action to reverse these mental and spiritual corruptions. This must be done in such a way that will secure a foundation strong enough for the next generation to continue and improve upon though it will continuously be under scrutiny by those who do not understand or wish to understand the purpose of its existence.            

Though still in the process of understanding myself and the ways in which my own talents could most effectively reach the community, I have grown fond of the notions to either teach or possibly take on a curatorial career for my future—to blend the two into a cohesive institution is ideally the long term dream I will hold onto as I develop my skills throughout graduate school. It is for the sake of remembering our ancestors as well as for the need to rekindle the confidence they had within our own communities today, that I have dedicated myself to such a socially and spiritually challenging task.

My applying to the Mellon Scholars Program at the Library Company was initiated by a helpful professor of mine who had heard of the internship and knew that my interests and work experience in archives placed me in a great position to take on such a challenge. Of course the chance to conduct my own research rather than work behind the scenes, especially with such a vast and aged collection, left no question in my mind as to whether or not I would apply for this opportunity. And so, after months of waiting with fingers crossed, here I am, working alongside scholars and mentors who not only are supportive of my every task, but will surely stay lifelong friends after my work at the Library Company of Philadelphia is complete.

Frontispiece from Thomas Prosper Gragnon-Lacoste’s 
Toussaint Louverture,général en chef de l'armée de 
Saint-Domingue,surnommé le premier des noirs    
Paris, 1877.
The independent research project I am pursuing focuses on the pivotal stage of the Haitian Revolution. At this stage, I am examining the crucial decisions made by powerful members of the Haitian population, such as Toussaint L’Ouverture and the free Haitian people of color. From this analysis, I will then recognize the lasting effects these resolutions had on the larger Haitian population as well as African people throughout the diaspora. By placing the overall welfare of African people at the forefront, this analysis will give an in-depth assessment as to if and how Haiti progressed throughout this paramount time in history.

I must thank the Library Company of Philadelphia for granting me this valuable experience to explore history as well as prepare myself for the next steps of my college career. I appreciate these tools given to me and cannot wait to apply them to the road ahead.

Hannah Wallace
2015 Mellon Scholars Intern