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

No comments:

Post a Comment