[Freedom archives news] Digging up the Past: What an internship at the Freedom Archives taught Kaila Rain Thomas about her family history

Freedom Archives Events freedomarchivesnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Feb 20 14:56:28 EST 2019


https://www.usfca.edu/news/digging-the-past


  Digging up the Past:


    What an internship taught Kaila Rain Thomas ’18 about her family
    history

By Sayantika Mandal MFA ’19 - February 19, 2019

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Growing up, history major 
<https://www.usfca.edu/arts-sciences/undergraduate-programs/history> 
Kaila Rain Thomas '18 often heard stories about her grandfather, a 
founding member of the Alabama Black Liberation Front — a group 
affiliated with the Black Panthers.

Little did she know that she’d unearth more from her family history 
while interning at a nonprofit in San Francisco.

Last April, The Freedom Archives, a local nonprofit that preserves 
documents related to progressive movements in the U.S., came to USF to 
screen a documentary about the Chicano movement of the 1970s. Intrigued 
by the film, and having a few friends who have interned at the archives, 
Thomas decided to apply for an internship herself.

A few weeks after landing the position, while working with some 
documents about the Alabama prison system in the 1970s, she came across 
a letter written by her grandmother.

"I immediately recognized her handwriting," Thomas says. "I turned the 
page and found myself looking at a picture of my grandfather."

The letter included poems her grandfather had written, including one 
about Thomas’ mother as a little girl, and his obituary written by her 
grandmother.


    Archivist-in-training

After finding the letter, Thomas felt The Freedom Archives was the place 
she was meant to be.

"I chose to focus on African American history and minor in African 
studies so I could one day better understand my own family history," she 
says. “My adviser, Professor Kathy Nasstrom 
<https://www.usfca.edu/faculty/kathryn-nasstrom>, was excited about my 
internship, seeing me find my place in the history world."

During her internship, Thomas also researched a personal project that 
explored the connections between the American civil rights movement and 
the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

"There isn’t much conversation about how the two movements intersect, 
and I want to try and start that conversation," says Thomas.

When the internship ended in December 2018, The Freedom Archives offered 
Thomas a part-time position as an archivist-in-training.

"It’s a great opportunity to start a career in history, a field I love," 
she says.

*Please support this valuable work!* <https://freedomarchives.org/donation/>

-- 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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