Mellon Scholars Program: Ruminating on the Research Path

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Mellon Scholar Chandra Dickey

Mellon Scholars Program: Ruminating on the Research Path


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.


Mellon Scholar Chandra DickeyWhilst typing this, I asked myself “is this experience really coming to a close?” The thought startled me, and I had to assure myself I had not spoken aloud. The Reading Room is for deep concentration, not interpersonal musings. Of course, my month at The Library Company of Philadelphia cannot be encapsulated by a blog post, but alas, I’ll try!
I’m Chandra. In May I graduated from Scripps College in Claremont, California with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and History. In September, I will move to France for seven months to work as an English Teaching Assistant. At the Library Company, I have split my time conducting my own research, transcribing, drafting lists of potential graduate schools, and introspection. This internship has been an immense privilege, and every interaction I have had at the Library Company has been a positive one. Often, I am struck by the fact that new insights exist only a call slip—or conversation—away.

I discovered this program through an archivist at Spelman College. Last summer, I received a grant to conduct a ten-week long project in preparation for my senior thesis. Spelman’s was the first archive I had ever visited. Before the end of my first day, the archives—and research—were no longer relegated to academics but instead were feasible career options. Upon finding my new love affair, I hounded the archivist with questions about how to gain more experiences related to history. She suggested I apply for the Library Company’s internship

This program interested me because of my passion for Afro-diasporic cultures. Through classes on Afro-diasporic communities in the Americas, I realized that rigorous historical study is a critical place of learning, resistance, progress, and art. Furthermore, the colonial period can tell us much about current perceptions of race, class, and gender and how some are treated abysmally because of their differences in these categories. The African Americana Collection at the Library Company holds a plethora of materials integral to remembering and learning from the experiences of people of African descent in the early United States. Obviously, this was an experience I could not pass up.
From Loring Daniel Dewey. Correspondence Relative to the Emigration to Hayti, of the Free People of Colour, in the United States (New York, 1824).

From Loring Daniel Dewey. Correspondence Relative to the Emigration to Hayti,
of the Free People of Colour, in the United States (New York, 1824).

While here, I have done research on the African American emigration movement to Haiti during the early 19th century. More specifically, I have questioned why African American men outnumber African American women in discourses surrounding the movement, and the often masculine rhetoric emigration literature presented as it gained support. My project has involved looking at pamphlets and letters promoting African American resettlement in order to understand the political and social climate that pushed free black Americans to seek opportunities abroad. Along with this, I have integrated a few articles that grapple with the relationship between nationalism and masculinity into my research. Often, historians do not use theoretical texts to frame their arguments, but I feel that theory has allowed me to further understand the significance of the primary and secondary source documents I have handled.

This experience has pushed me to think critically about what I’d like to prioritize in my career. My interests in Afro-diasporic cultures, gender studies, and art will certainly be at the forefront of whatever I do. At present, I would love to bring art and history into communities often disconnected from them. Thus, I believe a PhD program or Master’s in History or Africana studies would allow me to successfully merge a variety of my interests.

My month at the Library Company has been phenomenal, and I am excited to see what paths the skills I have gained here will take me in the future.

Chandra Dickey
Scripps College, Class of 2016
2016 Mellon Scholars Intern

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