Growing up in Williamsburg, Stanton Camp '22 naturally developed a love for the history of colonial Virginia. But as he considered what direction to take his college education, Stanton didn’t think history was an option—at least not at first.
"My family is very business oriented, so when I first got to college, I was planning to pursue a business degree," Stanton admits. "I've loved the study of history my whole life, but I was always told it wasn't a viable field. Then I realized how incorrect that statement is. History is a very complex and diverse subject. There are so many opportunities that a history degree opens up like preservation, teaching, or government."
So Stanton followed his passion and changed his major. This summer, Stanton put his studies to practical use interning at the final home of Virginia statesman Patrick Henry: Red Hill Plantation in Charlotte County. Stanton's assignment was part of the site’s efforts to include a greater interpretation of enslaved life at Red Hill. In 2018, the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation purchased a piece of land called Quarter Place that has approximately 147 documented African-American gravesites.
Stanton researched the history and culture of enslaved people at Red Hill and in relation to Patrick Henry and his life at Red Hill, while another intern traced the genealogical routes of recorded enslaved persons in an effort to locate living descendants.
"History should be told accurately and transparently. There shouldn't be a bias in telling the story of the past," Stanton says. "Creating an interpretation of history to share with the public is a challenge, because people do come with their own biases. But we're trying to create a more accurate and inclusive picture of life at Red Hill. Enslaved people were a big part of that history, and they deserve to have their stories told."
Elliott Professor of History and Assistant Dean of the Faculty Caroline Emmons describes Stanton as a public history ambassador, and notes that his work this summer is increasingly important given the current climate surrounding race relations in the nation. "From a historian's point of view, a reckoning with the past is a big part of the core foundational work that must be done in order to establish trust," Emmons says. "We can’t have an honest conversation about what the future might look like without having an honest conversation about what happened in the past."
Although he could have easily pursued an internship in his native Williamsburg, which is teeming with opportunities for an up-and-coming historian, Stanton was pleasantly surprised with his experience at Red Hill. "Doing my first internship at a smaller place like Red Hill was great," Stanton says. "Places like Williamsburg can be a bit factory-like. It’s not a bad thing, but my experience at Red Hill was very different. I was able to work more intimately with the team and get more hands on with the material than I may have been able to at a larger site. It was an amazing place to work.
"One thing that really helped me get this internship set up was H-SC's Career Center," Stanton says. "The funding I received through the Career Center's internship scholarship made this opportunity possible." Students interested in internship, fellowship, or job opportunities can find out more by visiting the Ferguson Career Center website.