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Leslie Spencer

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I was born and raised in Atlanta. I lived in the southwest section of the city for twenty years. I attended several elementary schools in the Center Hill & Dixie Hill neighborhoods.  I would eventually graduate from Douglass High School which is located on what was once Hightower Road. I left Atlanta in 1986 and returned in 2003. During the time I was away from Atlanta I worked in aviation as electrician/avionics mechanic. I completed a my BS in Professional Aeronautics. I worked for the Air Force as an electronics technician but decided that a career in aviation was no longer what made me happy. I came to the conclusion that a career in aviation no longer suited me so I decided to make a career change. I enrolled at Georgia State University in Fall 2011. I earned a BA in History with a minor in African American studies in 2013.

After graduation I promptly, applied to the MHP Public History track and I am on track to graduate in Summer 2015. I chose the Heritage Preservation primary because after living outside of the country for a number of years I knew I wanted to become involved in the preservation of history. I decided that public history would be the track to follow for me. I have always been a big proponent of sharing knowledge. I thought that public history offered the best vehicle to do that. I knew (or at least firmly believe) that I do not want to teach in the traditional classroom setting. The methods used to interpret & teach history can take many forms, traditional education may limit some of these teaching methods in some cases.
My research interest in history include but are not limited to America History-1865 (mostly), American South, Early Modern European History, Africa Diaspora. Currently/ongoing, I have been researching my family genealogy. I have trace my ancestor back into the 1820s on both sides of my family line. Only one ancestor so far was born outside of Georgia.  As a result I have tried to focused most of my graduate work on histories involving Southern history. I have tried to personalize that research by incorporating the areas (primarily four counties) of Middle Georgia where my family is form into my research.

Research Topic

For my research topic I have a decision to make. I am torn between two subject matters. One theme would focus on life and death in the city of Atlanta. This would encompass looking into Atlanta’s nightlife within the corridors of the beltline. On the Westside track of the beltline there are several nightclubs whose histories I feel should be documented. Several of these establishments were located in somewhat residential areas along the Simpson Road (Boone Blvd.) stretch of the corridor. These establishments have been operating in some capacity since at least the early seventies. For better or worst these establishments have been and continue to be fixtures in this community. In the Northeast track of the project there were several nightclubs located in the midtown area which no longer exist but were central to Atlanta’s gay community during the early 80 & 90s.

The second part of the first theme of this project will focus on death. I am interested in documenting the history of Cox Brothers funeral directors which is located in the King Historic District. Cox Brothers Funeral Home was established in 1900. It has been at the current location since the 1930s. This is a business which has been retained in the same family. During the beginning of my HP studies I had the opportunity to conduct an interview with the current owners. During this interview they expressed an interest in establishing a lasting legacy in regards to documenting the history of the business. I believe that there is a wealth of information to be gain from including them in my research project.

The second theme in which I am interested in documenting I believe is the more compelling story. That is the story of the everyday life in the neighborhoods on the Westside track. This would encompass conducting interviews with longtime residents of these neighborhoods. My hope would be to find community activist and leaders to help me located older members of the community who have witnessed the change in the community over a period of time. I would be interested perhaps tracking down adults who grew-up in the neighbors though high-school alumni associations, church groups, and other civic organizations. I believe that this option for research would be the most meaningful.

As of now I am leaning mostly to researching my second option. It will not be easy but I do feel strongly about documenting the story of ordinary life along the corridor of the Westside track. Since there are elements of these two tracks which overlap, there is the possibility of including elements of both themes into one single project. This will largely depend on the ages of the respondents & whether or not they are willing to open up regarding some subject matter.

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