Well, here it is my senior year of undergrad. I FINALLY made it to this point and boy am I glad about it! I decided I enjoyed the Land of Lincoln so much that I spent a second summer there doing another internship. The research topic was "Faith Communities In Lincoln's Springfield." I went in with the expectation that I would go interview pastors and look at old church records. This experience helped me grow as a historian. I learned that not every church has a well documented church history. I thought it would be as simple as going to a church office and having records in a safe or something. Unfortunately, that was not always the case. Of course, some churches documented their history better then others. A city church directory, which is based upon what is printed in the newspapers, can "omit" churches because they may not have a formal location. For example, I learned that there was a group of Jews who were holding services in Springfield. Then again, ethnic minorities in Springfield wasn't uncommon. The exiles from Madeira, Portugal is another perfect example. I also learned that Lincoln contributed to building funds, even though he never formally joined a church. I also learned that some of his hired help were founding members of some of the oldest churches in Springfield. A highlight of my summer was going to Zion Baptist Church, the oldest African American church in Springfield and telling them that one of their founding members, Mariah Vance worked for Abraham Lincoln. That is what drives my love for history. I like to tell the stories of everyday people who just happen to be involved with historic people or places. I remember sitting in the park and looking at the house. I imagined Mariah Vance singing negro spirituals as she was walking to the house or in the backyard hanging out laundry. It moved me to tears because that same faith has transcended through so many generations. Sorry, there I go being a "holling historian" again. I think that is part of my passion for my profession. I just have to turn it into a skill set that will help me in my career. So, not only did I grow professionally, I grew spiritually. So, this internship was very beneficial for me.
While in Springfield, I always manage to find side projects to get myself into. I thought that more people should know about African Americans in Lincoln's Springfield. That included everything from Lincoln's barber to the Race Riots of 1908 and the separate celebration of Lincoln's 100th birthday by African Americans. After talking with people like Richard Hart and Anthony Landis, I submitted an abstract to present at the ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History) 94th convention, To my surprise, it was accepted. I also started attending meetings for a Lincoln Legacy Committee. These great group of folks wanted to have a program talking about the diversity of Lincoln's Springfield. They decided to have me as a guest speaker. I was a little shocked by it. All expense paid. I guess I need to get used to it. So, I'll be back in Springfield for almost 2 weeks. I will be presenting my research at 3 more history conventions. As a good friend said, "your gifts will make room for you. " I guess he was right. So, I will see where this Lincoln thing takes me yet once again.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Well, since my last post a few things have happened. I went back to Houston, to TSU to prepare for my senior Capstone seminar. With research in hand, I was able to write a decent paper. The faculty liked the topic and research. I ended up with an A in the course. One of the objectives was to have a paper that was good enough to present at a conference or consortium. I submitted my paper and was able to present at 2 such events. I presented at the 5th Annual Phi Alpha Theta Houston Consortium. I also presented at the 89th Annual Southwestern Social Science Association in Denver, CO. So this Lincoln Hired Help research has been a boost for me. For the month of February, I was highlighted on the National Park Service's website. That was a complete surprise to me. I would have chose a different picture, but, it's good web publicity nonetheless. The highlight for me was going back to Springfield for Lincoln's 200th birthday celebration. I was on a panel with renowned Lincoln scholars and historians. Some of my family came to support me. That was one of the memorable moments. It was great to know that there were some familiar faces in the audience that day. I know that it was the first of many panels that I will sit on as a historian. There were so many events during that week to write about. However, the Abraham Lincoln Association banquet was the crowning moment. I purchased and altered a dress for this event. I was looking flawless. To make it better, President Barack Obama, a Lincoln fan showed up! It took all I had not to scream like a Jonas Brothers fan. My camera and cell phone batteries were low because I was taking pictures earlier in the day. I was not happy. But, at least I was in the room. So, this research has benefited me greatly and I have grown in the profession of history, I hope. I was asked to return to the site for the following summer and accepted the position with a different research topic. I'll be blogging about those experiences soon.