Meet 2019-2020 Woodruff Fellow – Jennifer Morgan

This is the fifth post in a series of interviews conducted by the Woodruff Library with the 2019-2020 Emory Libraries/Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS) Fellows. Funded by the Laney Graduate School, the library and ECDS award fellowships to advanced graduate students expecting to complete their dissertations by the end of the fellowship period. Fellows are placed within the Woodruff Library, Rose Library and ECDS to work in an area related to their subject specialization or interest, culminating in a formal presentation in the spring.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your favorite book? What’s your favorite thing about Emory/Atlanta?

I’m a Ph.D. candidate in history at Emory and have lived in Georgia for most of my life. Favorite book? The irony is that I read almost constantly yet am unsure of how to answer this question. My favorite thing about the area is how pet-friendly Dekalb County tends to be. I’m definitely an animal person and relish opportunities to walk around the beautiful Emory and Agnes Scott areas with my dog.

What are you researching for your dissertation?

My dissertation traces the development of legal and cultural conceptions of sexual exploitation and violence around the practice of long-term sexual enslavement of women. This practice often has been called “concubinage” in scholarship on Atlantic slavery, but an important part of my project is questioning and examining such terminology. I investigate how enslaved women’s contestation of this practice challenged laws and customs and what their actions reveal about how they understood, experienced, and sometimes invoked the very laws and customs fundamental to the institution of Atlantic slavery. More broadly, I ask how analyzing this practice in terms of race, gender, and sexuality reshapes conceptions of how the southern U.S. was part of—and rooted in—a larger British Atlantic system of slavery. My work also extends to methodological possibilities for using visual and literary sources as part of the archive of slavery.

What interested you about the Woodruff Library Fellowship?

Before I entered the field of history, I had not spent a lot of time working in archives. But during my first research trip, it became clear that there are few places I had rather be than in an archive. As a scholar of U.S. and Atlantic history, I am excited about the possibilities that the Rose Library’s amazing collections hold to build a more complex, multidimensional, and dynamic representation of Reconstruction, the pivotal era on which my work here focuses. The public-facing and archival aspects of this fellowship present several exceptional opportunities: to participate in collaborative efforts to generate public interest in the history and legacies of Reconstruction among a range of audiences, to extend this interest to the Library’s collections, and to develop my own knowledge of archival work.

What will you be working on this year for your Woodruff Library Fellowship?

My primary project has been combing through the Rose Library’s extensive collections relating to African American life during Reconstruction in order to create a list of primary and secondary materials for use in public scholarship initiatives. Some of these will be exhibitions, digitization of materials, a K-12 curriculum, a website, and public programming.