Melanie Chambliss Postdoctoral Fellow


B.A. English, Howard University
M.A. and M.Phil. African American Studies and American Studies, Yale University
Ph.D. African American Studies and American Studies, Yale University

Research Interests:

Twentieth-century African American History and Culture
Print Culture Studies
The Processing of “Hidden Collections” and the Preservation of Historic Black Archives


Melanie Chambliss is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University. She earned her Ph.D. in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University in 2016. She has received awards from the Ford Foundation, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, and the American Council of Learned Societies (declined).

Current Research:

Melanie’s in-progress manuscript, “Saving the Race: Black Archives, Black Liberation, and the Shaping of African American History,” explores the founding and impact of early twentieth-century black archives. Because of these sites’ wide use amongst scholars, writers, students, artists, and community members, Melanie argues that black archives helped to define what African American history was and what it would become as a subject in mainstream culture and a field in academia. Her project emphasizes the work of trained librarians like Dorothy Porter, Ernestine Rose, and Vivian Harsh who enabled the public’s use of such collections. Their contributions helped to further the popularizing of this subject and field alongside the efforts of historians like Carter G. Woodson and Charles Wesley. However, by viewing the story of African American history’s development from the other side of the librarian’s desk, Melanie’s work reveals the personal, political, and professional concerns that shaped twentieth-century black historical consciousness.