One of the common suggestions from my advisor, peer reviewer, and Dr. Jones was that my proposal is trying to do more than necessary and this will certainly make the project more difficult. One of the best critiques I received was that I only needed to look at the use of color by abolitionists and I did not need to try to prove that this strategy changed anyone’s opinion and converted them to the antislavery cause. This helps me focus my project and, in turn, makes it more manageable. Dr. Quigley suggested I only need to add any discussion of this if I find it a topic of discussion in the abolitionists’ correspondence I plan to research. The use of color as an abolitionist strategy and as “available cultural capital” provides a clear link to current antislavery movements without drawing attention away from the project’s focus. I will add this suggestion into the next draft of my proposal and I am thankful I do not have to leave out what initially drew me to the project.
Another suggestions I received and will address in the next draft i the inclusion of women and black abolitionists in the study. I have looked at both groups in my research up to this point but I did not make this clear in my first proposal. I think I may have unintentionally looked more at white abolitionist sources but I will attempt to correct this mistake in the next draft and over the summer. Looking at the use of color by abolitionists and how this was viewed by men and women and whites and blacks will show any differences which existed between the groups and add depth to the study. To help address this I will be reading some Frederick Douglas biographies and The Abolitionist Papers, and keeping an eye out for any links between gender and sexuality and the language used by abolitionists to describe race/color.
I have also received some advice about how to beef up my historiography section and link it closer to my research. I am reading John Stauffer’s The Black Hearts of Men to help me show readers where race and whiteness fits into abolitionist studies. I will also be more careful in my next draft to show that I am using whiteness studies to gain a new perspective on color in the abolition movement and not challenging these theories. I think I need to rewrite this section so this is clearer to readers. I also plan to speak with Dr. Mollin to find some sources to help me examine how language and images are used in social movements. This will help situate my work in the field and add to its significance.
I was surprised to get suggestions about my time period from two of my reviewers. I though my choice was big enough without being too broad, but this may turn out not to be the case. I do not think I will change the time period for my next submission, but I would not be surprised if my summer research changes my dates somewhat. If anything I believe the period will be further defined and shortened which will also help focus my project. Unfortunately, I will not know how to limit this until the research is further along. I hope to make most of these changes, to some degree, in my next draft and then refine these areas over the summer as my research progresses.
David, you have a good plan here. I agree that the time frame might change, but it’s a good idea to keep options open for awhile. Perhaps you can address the pros and cons in your next draft — will help you figure out what you will want to know/look for over the summer to make an informed decision by September.
Are you still thinking about some sort of public history component?
It sounds like you’ve gotten some great feedback and that you are well on your way to putting that feedback to good use. As we discussed in class last Monday, that is an essential skill to have.
Like Dr. Jones, I am also curious about the public history component (you mentioned it a while ago). Is that still a possibility? I think it could be a really interesting (but potentially difficult and time-consuming) part of your project.
David, I believe that we all received a great deal of insight into our projects. I think that your ideas that you talk about will help to make for a better paper in the end and I for one, feel that you are on the right track to put together a fantastic piece. It also seems that you have a plan in place to move forward with your research and writing. Good luck.