Meet Meredith Jackson

Ever since her grandmother gifted her a book about Dolley Madison at the age of eight, Meredith Jackson has been interested in history. That love of history led her to various family trips to historic sites and to the East Coast for school. Originally from Illinois, Meredith graduated from the College of William & Mary in 2021 with an AB in History and Government with a certification in Material Culture & Public History from the National Institute of American History and Democracy (NIAHD). She is currently in her last semester in the MA Public History program at American University. Her research interests include African American history, eighteenth and nineteenth century American history, historic memory, and D.C. history.

Additionally, Meredith’s interest in history led her to various opportunities. Throughout her four years of undergrad, she was an Office Assistant at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. She enjoyed making connections with fellow history nerds and learning more about the publication field. Meredith took further advantage of studying in Williamsburg by interning at Colonial Williamsburg. In Summer 2019, she participated in an archaeological excavation at the Robert Carter House. While she disliked the humidity of Tidewater Virginia summers, Meredith enjoyed finding hundreds of artifacts with her classmates. In 2020, Meredith interned in Colonial Williamsburg’s Department of Historical Research and Digital History. She researched colonial Virginia laws pertaining to enslaved people, Native Americans, and women. For a person who first visited Colonial Williamsburg as a child, Meredith is grateful that she had the ability to gain public history experiences at one of the most prominent living history museums.

Other research opportunities allowed Meredith to explore stories that have been historically obscured in previous scholarship of William & Mary and D.C. In Summer 2021, she received the Gaither-Johnson Summer Research Grant to research William & Mary’s African American history for a walking tour for The Lemon Project, which is a research project dedicated to uncovering the university’s African American history. Meredith enjoyed combing through university records and getting to know the Special Collections staff, who were also extremely helpful during her research projects. Most recently, Meredith was the Summer 2022 History & Cultural Resources Intern at the Department of Homeland Security, tasked with uncovering the history of the department’s headquarters, St. Elizabeths Hospital. Her favorite part was researching at multiple institutions, such as the DC History Center, National Archives in D.C. and Maryland, and the Library of Congress.

Meredith is very proud of her undergraduate honors thesis, “The Enslaved People and the Tylers Too: Why Slavery in Public History Is Imperative.” The thesis uses Sherwood Forest Plantation, the home of President John Tyler, to showcase why historic sites with connections to slavery need to convey to visitors that side of history as it tells a fuller story of not only the site itself, but of American history. The thesis details how Tyler and his family perpetuated slavery and the Lost Cause, and tells the stories of the enslaved people who lived and labored at Sherwood Forest. Meredith’s thesis received Highest Honors from William & Mary’s History Department. She worked with a direct descendant of President Tyler and is grateful for her help and in sharing the stories of the enslaved people on Sherwood Forest Plantation’s new website. It was during her thesis Meredith realized she wanted to pursue a graduate degree in Public History.

At American University, Meredith has enjoyed learning about the Public History field and its methods and practices that help uncover stories that have been largely overlooked, such as the World War II history of St. Elizabeths Hospital and the history of the historically African American cemetery Woodlawn in Washington, D.C. In her Practicum class, Meredith was part of the group that examined African American sanctuaries in America, and she researched contraband camps during the Civil War, particularly the recruitment of U.S. Colored Troop (USCT) servicemen from those camps. The project was part of a larger exhibit called “Nation of Sanctuaries,” which is curated by Dr. Sam Vong at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Additionally at AU, Meredith had the opportunity to take Oral History. She had always been interested in oral histories since she examined many of them for her honors thesis. It was fascinating to not only learn about oral history theories and practices, but also to use those theories and practices when conducting her own oral history interviews. From the MA Public History program, Meredith hopes to graduate with knowledge of the many facets of public history, such as conducting oral histories, understanding different digital platforms to convey history to wider audiences online, and understanding the intersections of public history with other fields.

Meredith enrolled in Digital History Theory and Method to gain more experience and practice with the digital sphere. She has some experience through an internship and a previous graduate class. In Summer 2019, she interned at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington, Illinois, which is the home of Supreme Court Justice David Davis. At the mansion, Meredith was in charge of the social media of the historic site, garnering hundreds of new followers with her posts about the mansion’s residents and its current docents. During her graduate program, Meredith took Black Digital History with Dr. Crystal Moten. In the class, Meredith learned about how digital historians are endeavoring to balance the archives with more documents pertaining to African American history, how African American activists use social media to spread their message, and the ethics of digital history. It was fascinating to learn the past of digital history and in analyzing the effects of digital projects. By taking Digital History Theory and Method, Meredith hopes to gain more hands-on experience with different digital platforms and how they can be utilized for public history projects, making them more accessible to the general public. Especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions are incorporating digital projects, so she wants to be prepared for those projects as she starts her last semester of graduate school.

Outside of the classroom, Meredith currently works as the Fraternity & Sorority Life Graduate Assistant at American University, aiding in advising the university’s fraternities and sororities. She is member of Phi Mu Fraternity. Outside of her job and classwork, she can be found catching up with friends and taking advantage of living in Washington, D.C., such as visiting the numerous museums and historic sites and grabbing coffee at local cafes.

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