AHA Member Spotlight: Stephanie J. Richmond
Stephanie Richmond is an associate professor of history at Norfolk State University. She lives in Norfolk, Virginia, and has been a member since 2009.
Alma maters: BA, George Washington University, 2002; MA, PhD, Catholic University of America, 2011
Fields of interest: gender, abolition of slavery, race, transnational, women, digital
Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today?
I earned a PhD for my own enjoyment, I originally intended to continue my career as an archivist once I finished. I worked as an archivist at a number of government and nonprofit organizations while pursuing my graduate education. While I was in the final year of finishing my dissertation, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and it became clear that I could not continue to work in archives as the job is very physically demanding (lifting lots of heavy boxes). I had been a teaching assistant while completing my coursework and my advisor encouraged me to think about applying for academic positions. I quickly found an adjunct position, and once I had defended, applied for a couple of tenure-track positions and was offered a position at Norfolk State.
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
Norfolk is a great small city. It has a wonderful arts scene and great restaurants. Norfolk State is a great place to teach; our students are a mix of traditional and nontraditional and work very hard to get their degrees. Many of our majors work full time while going to school and bring a wide variety of experiences and perspectives to the classroom. I have wonderful colleagues as well, all of whom are generous with their time and ideas for both teaching and research and are committed to the success of our students and institution.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am starting a digital humanities project looking at Liberian migrants from Virginia with a group of scholars from around the state and I am working on revising my book manuscript on abolitionist women, race and women's rights, based on my dissertation.
What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research?
Several years ago I was at the Newberry Library in Chicago looking through a collection of letters from a family of Welsh immigrants who were abolitionists. Tucked between the letters and other papers was a piece of beautiful hair and paper jewelry one of the daughters had made while away studying at a normal school to become a teacher. Her mother had preserved the tiny piece of artwork on a piece of cardstock and filed it with the letter her daughter sent her. Not only was the work intricate, but the way it was preserved spoke to the family's deep attachment to one another and its presence in the archive took me out of the uncomfortable chair in a chilly room to think about how important the letters I was reading were to the family and not just as sources of information about their lives and activism.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
I value the discipline of history for the clarity it can help bring to problems facing our society today. The current debates over immigration, citizenship, and civil rights have deep historical roots. History is always relevant, although I often tell my students I wish some of our past was not so relevant today.
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
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