Research Madness

Well, pretty much wiped out after 2 ten hour days of research in Philly. Looking forward to sleeping on the bus back to State College in the morning…

But I found some amazing stuff! Found some great sources at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania yesterday. It’s remarkable how different this trip was from my first real research trip, which also took me to the Free Library. I think I spent half the time back then just figuring out what I wanted to see. This time I was well prepared ahead of time, knew how to use Microfilm readers, and knew much more about my subject, so was able to weed through sources much faster.

I read the Philadelphia Press, ca. 1873, for half the day today, and found some amazing, explicit references to Black women’s involvement in the Centennial, including a white woman organizer’s remark to a Black leader that the hundredth Independence Day was “not a celebration which concerns [your] color.” Wow.

Great bits and pieces that I missed my last time here, and the one thing I was desperately hoping to find–a list of names of Black women who attended the Women’s Centennial Committee meeting–I found! I have a ton of stuff to work with now, and I’m really starting to get a sense of the story I want to tell. Do exciting moments like these make up for hours and hours of weeding through corn prices and ads for tooth polish? Ask me when I’ve had a nap. But all together, a very encouraging trip…

Books to read

The remarkable thing is that I could quite easily spend the entire summer making a list of the books I should read to become familiar with this topic and its historical context… without actually reading any of them. I’m trying to decide how to feel about that — frustrated and overwhelmed, currently.

What’s exciting, though, is to see how many familiar names there are in these books. I’m getting the sense that my interests can actually be located in a particular scholarly literature and conversation, which is great! I guess I’m “finding the edges” of what I want to work on, and how my contribution might be unique. The literatures I’m approaching here are 1) patriotism/nationalism 2) women’s rights and 3) the African American freedom struggle, all in the late 19th century. The book I’m reading now is really the most precisely relevant text I’ve come across so far, although it starts a bit later than what I’m looking for; it’s Francesca Morgan, Women and Patriotism in Jim Crow America (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2005); I’ll write up a summary for my next post.

Later this week I’ll put together an agenda for my first research trip to Philly in June.

Planning mode

I’ve had three full days off from school; time to get back to work! There’s a whole set of administrative skills needed for doing research that they don’t tell you about in the glossy school brochures… Need to set up appointments with librarians and archivists, book hotel rooms, buy bus tickets, and figure out what on earth I want to look at in some giant archives in Philly this summer.

Hoping to visit the Library Company, Free Library, maybe the City Archives, and the Mother Bethel AME Church archives — possibly more. I’ll try to do a weekly report here on progress, then daily when I’m in the archives. I want to stay in the habit of writing over the summer, and hope this will motivate me!