Gunlord’s Dissertation Saga, Episode 4: Carrying On

A second week here at Washington, my friends, and the last one. Before I provide my brief update on how I’ve been doing, a quick summary of the previous week’s struggles: Finding the information from Harvey Wish’s biography of George Fitzhugh, along with some of the citations for my other subjects from the secondary sources written about them, proved more of a challenge than I thought. Some of the citations didn’t correspond to the microfilm numbers in the National Archives, or proved much more difficult to track down due to how the microfilms were organized. Also, I found out that another scholar had written a book sort of similar to what my dissertation hoped to do, but fortunately not too close. Phew!

So what have I done over the course of this past week? Well, largely continue the efforts I pursued for the one before that–ask historians questions and see what sources I could find. I also met with some fairly ambiguous success on that front.

I first tried to see what was up with the George Frederick Holmes papers at the Library of Congress, since George Fitzhugh was a great friend of Holmes. Alas, I found very little. I thought it might have been just because I could barely read 19th century longhand, but when I asked the librarians they said the LoC only had a bit of Holme’s papers…the rest were at Duke University.

Well, I guess I learned my lesson. ALWAYS BET ON DUKE!

More happily, however, I finally actually managed to track down ONE citation! Reading through Cyril Griffith’s biography of Martin R. Delany, The African Dream, after spending a couple hours in the manuscript reading room I managed to figure out which microfilm reel corresponded to which box in the American Colonization Papers and then managed to track down the letter Dr. Griffith cited! It’s kind of useful for my project, though I’m not sure if it’ll be a slam dunk, but still, the satisfaction of actually succeeding in tracking down a citation in microfilm made me feel good.

I couldn’t track down citations from another book on Delany, though (Tunde Adeleke’s Without Regard to Race). However, I emailed Prof. Adeleke and he said he’d get back to me with some help in a little while, so that’s super good. 😀

Other good news is that I *should* be able to access most e-resources off-site, though not all. Copyright stuff means that most of the 20th century newspapers can only be accessed in the Library of Congress itself, but I should be good to go for the 19th century ones, which are important to me 8)

Still, though, I’m becoming more and more convinced that the best thing for me to do to get out of this funk would be to hunker down and actually start writing…I know, I haven’t gotten enough primary sources yet. However, the way I see it, if I could show my committee a very very very rough draft, I might probably be able to get a little guidance about what primary sources I should be searching for. They might tell me, “OK Gunlord, your analysis of these papers doesn’t seem to be too bad, but your analysis of these guys’ family lives needs to be more robust, so you should try to find some more stuff about them. If you can’t, and the sources just don’t exist, we can discuss about what to do next.” Thus, rather than banging my head on the wall to find stuff I might not need or might not exist, creating an outline or even rough draft and showing it to the real experts (my committee) might help them help me focus my efforts and concentrate on finding sources that I really need, or tell me that I need to rethink my approach (which is better to do *before* you start hunting down sources XD)

So that’s what I’ve been spending most of my time doing–going through what I *was* able to find at the Library of Congress (like its online newspapers), as well as some of the books I brought with me to Washington, to get started on an outline, maybe even the beginnings of a rough draft to show my profs. I’ll tell you how that’s going next week ;D

On a personal note, I also met a online friend of mine here at the LoC! We met quickly and had a nice conversation–he was literally the first person from an online community I met IRL! Very cool. I also heard back from an old friend of mine I was a little worried about, so that’s even better! So all in all, even if this trip wasn’t as successful professionally as I liked, it was very nice personally.

And on another personal note, as I’m sure you’re all waiting for, here are some pictures I took of DC!



A view of one of the churches I really like from the 6th floor of the Madison building of the Library of Congress.


A nice statue of James Madison himself. ;D


The Capitol of the United States, currently undergoing renovations, I suppose.


The imposing entrance to the Library of Congress.


The Heritage Foundation ;o



A kitty I saw!!!!



I love this little…I forget the word for it, not a spire, but some embuttressment or something? Anyways, I like things like that.


I love these block houses with the spires!


More block houses with a nice lil spire thingy.


Some more block houses I liked, especially the one with the lil spire in it.


Finally, another church in DC I rather liked.

As you might be able to tell from my choice in photography, I do have rather…esoteric tastes. I don’t actually care all that much for the government buildings and monuments in DC…I rather prefer the churches and the houses, because the spires and stuff remind me of Bloodborne, which I love. 😀 😀

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