Spotlight on 女校友: 查拉·威尔逊 ’11 Preserves African American 历史


Portrait of Scripps College alum 查拉·威尔逊 '11, librarian and archivist for the Black Experience

While paging through historical readings at Denison 图书馆 as a student, 查拉·威尔逊 ’11 didn’t expect that this would become part of her career, 尤其是在大学里. 现在, nearly a decade since she started as a student at Scripps College, Wilson serves as a librarian and archivist for the Black Experience at the 西北大学 Libraries. Wilson said her work there utilizes the same skills she mastered at Scripps.

“I loved my Scripps experience,威尔逊说. “在我今天的工作中, I constantly refer back to those foundational skills that I got from Scripps.”

通过她的美国研究专业, Wilson was able to understand American culture through multiple lenses, 研究音乐, 电影, 文学, 和历史. She said she appreciated the interdisciplinary approach. Outside of the classroom, Wilson was active on campus, involved in groups like Watu Weusi, 校园团契, 365买球靠谱.

After graduation, Wilson briefly pursued a teaching career. 然而, realizing she wanted her career path to include the same interests she was able to explore at Scripps, Wilson pivoted and enrolled in a master’s degree program in history at 加州 State University, 圣马科斯. She noted that the decision was difficult, but that her former Scripps professors guided her.

“They were very supportive and gave me some feedback on things that they thought that they saw in me. They said, ‘you may want to consider archives and the library field,’威尔逊说. “这对我很有帮助.”

Wilson’s graduate thesis examined the Young Women’s Christian Association of San Diego’s segregated chapter for African Americans from the 1920s through 1950s. While working on her thesis, she began realizing her passion for archival research.

“Grad school was really the first time I had worked with an archival collection,威尔逊说. “It was just a life-changing experience.”

Wilson also discovered her interest in uncovering and preserving African American history. She began her thesis after noticing a small detail in the archives, something she said she “just stumbled upon.” This discovery led Wilson to understand how under-documented African American history is, something she now works to unearth in her career.

“I became interested in looking at documenting African American history and Black communities so that we don’t have these hidden or forgotten histories,威尔逊说. “I wanted to have a part in building a career around safeguarding those accounts of African American history through archival records.”

Wilson’s current position came as a result of a student protest. In 2015, Northwestern students protested staff moving their offices to the “Black House,” an on-campus building that historically served as a student union for Black students. Their grievances echoed similar demands from nearly 50 years prior. In 1968, Black students at Northwestern occupied the bursar’s office in what is now termed the “Bursar’s Office Takeover.” Black students protested for more spaces and recognition, but they received the Black House instead.

2018年,威尔逊参与了一项研究 在线展览 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Bursar’s Office Takeover. Wilson’s research from the project was extensive. Aside from closely analyzing archival materials, she met firsthand with alumni involved in the protest. 这样做的时候, she uncovered the influence of Kathryn Ogletree, a leader of the movement who had been largely excluded from the press because of her gender. Teaming up with the women’s center, Wilson brought Ogletree to campus to 讨论她的经历.

“Having the opportunity to record her story in her own words, 对我来说, 就是这样, 所以有意义,威尔逊说. “Her story reminds me of the importance of asking questions such as, ‘are there voices and perspectives that are missing that can aid in providing more insight into the past?’”

就在这个冬天, Wilson was recognized for her efforts to preserve history and create a more inclusive environment at Northwestern with 但以理一世. Linzer Award for 教师 Excellence in 多样性 and Equity.

“What excites me as an archivist is building a collection that’s more representative of historically overlooked groups and providing researchers with access to information through primary sources that inform, at times challenge or complicate our understanding of the past,威尔逊说. “In turn, those researchers can amplify more stories about events and individuals. I’m honored to contribute to that effort.”