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Jonathan Puckett

Jonathan Puckett

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Major / Minor: English, History / Black Studies
Graduation Date: Spring 2020
Current Education: Pursuing a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Current Position: Graduate assistant in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library


Why did you decide to choose a minor in Black Studies?

As an aspiring archivist, who worked as a student assistant at the McCain Library and Archives on-campus, I enrolled in the Black Studies minor because my research focus was in bringing underheard and/or marginalized narratives to the forefront of scholarship. In archives, that appears through things like digital exhibits, collection finding aids, and diverse acquisition initiatives. I was interested in gaining the academic vocabulary to discuss and to be well-informed in Black Studies, and the minor certainly provided. 

I also chose the Black Studies minor because my previous education had failed in discussing both the richness of Black history and the issues surrounding race.

In my personal experiences, I found that the subject of race, as a broad term, was treated as taboo, in large part because of White fragility. I wearied of only getting history and literature lessons from a skewed, Eurocentric approach that failed to gather a holistic narrative. In short, I selected the Black Studies minor to make me a better and more well-rounded person. 

What course(s) did you take at USM that enhanced your interests in Black Studies? If possible, identify the instructor as well.

I had taken Dr. Sherita L. Johnson’s course on Frederick Douglass and helped write an exhibit for the University of Delaware’s Colored Conventions Project. There is a rich literary tradition in Black Studies, and my interest is particularly in African American literature prior to the twentieth century. Douglass is a major figure of the nineteenth century. Another course I took was Dr. Craig Carey’s American Literature I, in which I was introduced to the poetry of Phillis Wheatley. 

How did minoring in Black Studies enhance your major studies at USM? 

I chose the Black Studies minor at the same time that I was writing my Honors thesis on the literature of Pauline Hopkins, an African American writer and activist-intellectual from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Naturally, the Black Studies minor enhanced my thesis by grounding it in existing scholarly discussions. The minor also allowed me gain experience in archival work—which is my end goal—because I was able to volunteer at the African American Military History Museum. Whereas many courses are left inside of the classroom, the Black Studies minor calls for an active and socially engaged approach that takes students into communities and workplaces. 

How might Black Studies influence your future career?

It already has! I am currently getting a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and I was able to land a position as graduate assistant in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (one of the largest repositories in the country).

By granting me experiences working in museums and engaging in community discussions, I am more prepared for my future endeavors as a librarian/archivist. 


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