From the March 2021 Desktop News | Thanks to a partnership between the White House Historical Association and UA’s Department of History, graduate student Jessica Brodt spent her summer as a virtual WHHA intern, where she contributed to the Association’s mission of preserving and sharing the history of the White House.
The WHHA was established in 1961 by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to help fully understand and exhibit the extensive history of the White House. Today, it continues that mission, researching a variety of subjects, including inaugurations, state dinners, meetings with foreign dignitaries and American activists, and even ghost stories.
During her summer internship, Brodt and two other interns helped curate content for the Association’s various social media platforms and blog posts, scouring the WHHA’s Digital Library and other repositories such as the Library of Congress and National Archives for interesting, valuable information for the WHHA’s thousands of followers to enjoy. Looking through these types of archives was fairly new to Brodt, who usually researched in local and county archives or UA’s libraries and archival collections during her studies.
When she wasn’t helping curate content, Brodt assisted research on slavery at the White House and in its surrounding neighborhood, Lafayette Square, for the Slavery in the President’s Neighborhood project.
“My specialization is in the history of African-American enslavement, so I was well aware of the general history of enslavement at the White House,” Brodt said. “But in terms of how many enslaved people worked and lived at the White House itself, and how many presidents either brought enslaved people with them to the White House or hired out enslaved individuals during their time as President, it was shocking and extremely eye-opening to me.”
In addition to this research, Brodt completed her own research on Native American delegations that visited the White House throughout history. While completing this research, she discovered how many of these delegations visited the White House as their respective nation’s diplomats or leaders protests either at the White House or down the street on the steps of the Capitol.
In between hours of researching, Brodt attended meetings with the entirety of the WHHA’s staff. Here, she got to participate in discussions about different moving parts within the organization and meet people she would not have normally crossed paths with.
“It was an excellent experience professionally to be involved in the larger Association,” Brodt said. “I appreciated being included as an intern in weekly meetings with people like the president of the WHHA and the education and publications departments. Since I usually worked and interacted with the historians of the David M. Rubenstein National Center for White House History, it was enlightening to see how other parts of a nonprofit work.”
Although the UA intern for Summer 2021 has already been chosen, Brodt encourages anyone interested in the position to apply. Those interested in the internship or becoming involved with the WHHA should email Dr. Julia Brock. To read more about Brodt’ research on Native American diplomacy and African-American enslavement, visit the WHHA website.