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Introducing 2021 Intern Julia Tanenbaum

by Julia Tanenbaum, Robert F. Smith Intern

Julia Tanenbaum, Robert F. Smith Intern
Julia Tanenbaum, Robert F. Smith Intern

My name is Julia Tanenbaum, and I am thrilled to introduce myself to the Amistad Research Center community as one of the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Robert F. Smith Interns for 2021. I pursued a career in archives because I realized that as an individual historian, I could endeavor to include a few silenced voices in the larger historical narrative, but as an archivist I could preserve the voices of many more individuals and communities by assuring that their writings, records and images are saved and shared with the public. During my MLIS program at the University of California Los Angeles for the last two years I worked as a graduate student research assistant at UCLA’s Young Research Library and as an archives intern at the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives. I have been able to combine my personal interest in the history of LGBTQ social movements with my archival work at the Mazer, where I recently co-curated the digital exhibit, “Making Our Own Kind of Music: The History and Legacy of the Women’s Music Movement.” I’ve processed several collections, including the analog film and born digital collection of lesbian filmmaker J.D. Disalvatore and the papers of actor Gina Young.

As a history major at Bryn Mawr College and during my MLIS program I also researched African American history and how the movements of the past resonate with continuing conversations surrounding criminal justice reform, structural racism and the Movement for Black Lives. Before starting the MLIS program at UCLA, I worked as a research assistant for political scientist Dr. Karin Stanford at Cal State Northridge, conducting research on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s relationship with the Los Angeles civil rights movement. When the COVID-19 pandemic began early last year, local Los Angeles community organizers raised the alarm about the deadly state-sponsored medical neglect occurring in prisons and jails across the country. I soon began a digital project in February 2020 with my colleague Jake Tompkins, the Freedom Archives and the California Coalition for Women Prisoners to amplify the organizations while weaving together incarcerated people’s past and present struggles for liberation. The project included writing, ephemera, art and film from the incarcerated people’s movements of the 1970s through the present to inspire viewers to join the movement for mass releases during the COVID-19 crisis. My future goals for the project include producing a zine to make it accessible to incarcerated people (who lack Internet access) and recording in-person oral histories with more anti-carceral feminist organizers. You can view my personal website and learn more about my work here.

Given my interest in Black freedom struggles, I am particularly excited to work at the Amistad Research Center and help preserve and share Patricia Goudvis’ unique photographs of Black Southern agricultural cooperatives and labor struggles. In the summer of 1974 Goudvis traveled to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina and documented the lives, working conditions and labor organizing of agricultural workers in the sugarcane, poultry and woodcutting industries. As I help build the finding aid for the collection, I am deeply inspired by the portraits and stories of organizers like Freedom Quilting Bee co-founder Estelle Witherspoon, who marched from Selma to Montgomery and committed civil disobedience at the height of the civil rights movement.[1] I am deeply honored to contribute to this work and hope I can help larger efforts to include Black voices in the historical record.

[1] Dahleen Glanton, “Nurtured by the Civil Rights Movement, the Once-Thriving Freedom Quilting Bee Now Is Coming Apart at the Seams,” Chicago Tribune, November 11, 1997.


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