CCDI Junior Fellow Spotlight: Camille Dantzler

This blog post is the third in a series that features the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative (CCDI) Junior Fellows from the Library’s 2022 Junior Fellows program. These posts highlight each fellow and the projects they developed. CCDI funded six interns in this year’s virtual 10-week program. CCDI is part of the Library’s Mellon-funded Of the People: Widening the Path initiative. This four-year program provides grants to individuals, organizations and institutions to create projects using the Library’s digital collections and that center one or more of the following groups: Black, Indigenous, Hispanic or Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color. Learn more about CCDI here.

This summer, CCDI’s Junior Fellows used a range of Library collection materials and multimedia to develop narratives and explore concepts relating to the experiences of Persians, Japanese Americans, African Americans, and Mexican Americans. With the support of Library staff, each Fellow visualized their research in a Story Map, which was published by the Library.

In this interview post, Camille Dantzler, a 2022 CCDI Jr Fellow, shares her research interests, career goals, and the inspiration behind her project, “Buy the Route: Black Labor Ecologies of the Dantzler Plantation From the Civil War through World War II.”

A photo of Camille Dantzler, a 2022 CCDI Jr Fellow.

Camille Dantzler was a 2022 CCDI Jr Fellow. [Photo by Camille Dantzler]

Tell us a little bit about your background. What led you to apply for a Library of Congress Junior Fellows internship?

I recently graduated with my doctorate degree from Howard University in the Department of African Studies and Research.  I study cultural expression and gender in post-conflict contexts in Africa and the Diaspora.  Exhibition and curation spaces have become key in understanding these experiences by bringing legacies of coloniality, race, migration, donor relations, and creative empowerment all in dialogue.  I firmly believe that art is one of the most powerful expressions of life.  I was seeking more in-depth experience in archive and exhibition, particularly as it relates to communities who are historically excluded from these spaces such as Black and Indigenous communities.  I saw the internship as an opportunity to explore the Library’s collections and materials from a researcher and practitioner perspective.

What project did you work on this summer?

This summer I had the pleasure of working on an auto-ethnographic and genealogical story map titled, “Buy the Route: Black Labor Ecologies of the Dantzler Plantation from the Civil War through WWII.”  This research study primarily utilized the Chronicling America Historic Newspapers, Voices Remembering Slavery: Freed People Tell Their Stories, Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writer’s Project 1936-1938, and materials from the Prints and Photographs Division. This study also utilized materials from regional collections on Mississippi and South Carolina.

What inspired this project? How did you come up with the idea?

The desire to discover more about my ancestry and the unique access to materials, librarians, and genealogists the project would bring. As a descendant of the enslaved on the Dantzler plantation and someone who has experienced the cost barriers to accessing ancestry information on many of the family search and genealogy sites, it became a center point that I felt could be addressed from a creative digital perspective. The language, family, and community traditions of Africans who were enslaved were systemically fractured in the name of slavery. I do not believe Black descendants should have to pay for records that assist us in restoring family networks, considering the lengths taken to destroy them. Legacies of these exclusions are felt by Black descendants of the enslaved and I see this project as one of many future kinds of historical expressions that engage genealogy and archive with the Library’s collections.

How does the work you’ve done connect with your career goals?

I am a researcher as well as a university professor. I plan to continue to incorporate the materials into my curriculums on African and African Diaspora studies, world history, digital media, and art history.  I also plan to apply for grants that will utilize library materials and resources to continue building out innovative research and widen access to communities who have not traditionally had access to this space.

As an alumna of Howard University, I see this relationship with the Library as an opportunity to continue to work to strengthen partnerships with the Library and HBCUs in the region.

For your internship, you worked with CCDI, which is part of the Of The People program. What does this program mean to you? What did you enjoy about working with CCDI?

Working with CCDI has meant working within a program that I see myself in.  It was affirming in support and collaboration with an extremely talented and inspiring team. I have made meaningful connections with my cohort, learning, supporting, and sharing with one another.  These experiences will stay with me. I envision this program as a necessary piece to the future of the Library.

For more information on Camille’s project, check out her Display Day project video here.

Interested in learning more about the CCDI Junior Fellows’ work? Visit the Library’s Story Maps page to view Story Maps created by this year’s Fellows and Library staff. To hear the Junior Fellows share about their projects in their own words, visit the 2022 Junior Fellow Display Day page.

Apply for a 2023 Junior Fellows Summer Internship

You can also work with CCDI as a Junior Fellow!

The Junior Fellows Program is an annual summer internship program for currently enrolled or recently graduated undergraduate or graduate students. Fellows have the opportunity to explore the Library of Congress’ digital and analog collections, while working directly with Library staff across the institution in a variety of fields, including: information technology, reference, preservation, and more.

Subscribe to the Of the People blog to be notified about the open application period for the 2023 Junior Fellows Summer Internship program. Stay tuned for more details on 2023 CCDI Junior Fellow activities!

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