Ashley Rogers (M.A., 2011), Director of Museum Operations for the Whitney Plantation in Wallace, Louisiana, recently spoke about how her education at CSU advanced her career. During her search for graduate schools, Rogers visited CSU and sat in on one of Dr. Ann Little’s classes. She was hooked, Rogers remembers, by “the intellectual stimulation.” Rogers said that her time at CSU taught her how to think like a historian. The skills that she learned in her graduate classes – “to think truly critically, and to question things and poke and prod at them” – are essential to her field and are ones that she tries to pass along to her employees.
A crucial turning point in her graduate career came during a break from classes. Rogers visited slave cabins while returning to North Carolina and decided she wanted to move back South and work at a site that interprets slavery. She met with Dr. Fred Knight for an independent study on African-American history. It was “the most intense book club ever,” she jokes.
Rogers credits her start at the Whitney Plantation to “pure gumption.” She volunteered and interned for two years and then worked for almost four years with History Colorado. Rogers learned a lot about running a museum, everything from “the curating, to the management, to the rat-extermination.” It was while she was at History Colorado that Rogers saw a story about the Whitney Plantation, one of the few museums in the United States that remembers slavery from the slaves’ perspective. She sent a long email to the plantation and then traveled to New Orleans and met John Cummings, the museum’s founder. Rogers sent her resume to Cummings’s wife and was successful in a national search for the museum’s director. She started work on September 1, 2014.
Rogers does almost everything at the Whitney Plantation, from giving tours to curating exhibits. She loves her job because she is “doing good, important work.” Almost every day she sees people “having difficult and heartfelt conversations about race, across racial lines.” She recently spoke about the Whitney Plantation for an American History TV program that aired on C-SPAN3, and you call see the full episode here.