ESSENCE Network: Archivist Gabrielle M. Dudley Shares How to Create & Preserve Your Legacy
By Charreah K. Jackson
As a high school student, Gabrielle M. Dudley was frustrated by the lack of information in school curriculum about the contributions of African Americans. After watching an episode of A Different World where students visited the library archives, she realized the career path for her passion to preserve and share African American history. Now Dudley is Chair of Archives of Color Roundtable for the Society of American Archivists and an archivist at Emory University where she handles rare materials such as Alice Walker’s manuscript for the Color Purple and bills of sale for enslaved Africans. See how she discovered her dream job and the importance of you documenting your own story.
Name: Gabrielle M. Dudley
Title: Instruction Archivist and QEP Librarian/ Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, Emory University
Location: Atlanta, GA
Hometown: Bessemer, AL
The gig: I introduce archival materials like photographs, diaries and letters to college students, scholars and the community for research and to help them better understand the ways the past informs the present and future. I love being able to hold the handwritten draft of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple or a bill of sale for slaves in Georgia. It gives me even more pleasure to use these primary sources to help create research papers, online exhibitions or short documentaries.
The journey: Frustration actually inspired me to do this work. As a teen, I was frustrated with the lack of information in school curriculum about the contributions of African Americans. I realized the importance in knowing your own history. While writing a history research paper, I realized preserving and making African American history available was my passion. Then I saw an episode of A Different World where a trip to the library archives enlighten students about the influence of African American women throughout history.
How to preserve your legacy: Start now! We all have a legacy worth documenting, especially Black women. Begin to gather and label photographs, postcards and trinkets and put them away for safe keeping in a fireproof box or safe. Be on the lookout for programs about personal archiving at your local historical society or public library. For family archiving, talk with the people you already know. Elders can be a wonderful resource. Speak with them about their childhood and experiences, and talk to young people, too.
Diary 101: Journaling can be as simple as writing a few lines about how you are feeling or setting goals for the day, month or year. Online journaling sites like Penzu or apps like Day One are great tools that you can download to your device.
Her networking tip: Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone that you think is doing interesting things in the field. You don’t have to wait to see them face-to-face, sometimes a call or email can break the ice. Seek out mentors and stay on top of new trends in the profession.
Best time-saving tip: I always keep my calendar up to date and dedicate a few minutes each morning to review it. This helps me to mentally prepare for the day and be truly present in meetings.
Her stress relievers: Meditating in the mornings allows me to center myself to take on the day’s challenges and journaling at night helps me release stress through words before bedtime.
Her mantra: “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to live.”
Her theme song: “Just for Today” by India.Arie.