Monday, September 15, 2014

The Belfast Project and IRB

Doing oral history is most often a pleasant and edifying experience that harms nobody and benefits many. But there are subjects that are very compelling and important being studied by historians, political scientists, and sociologists that touch on difficult and sometimes dangerous topics. The Belfast Project is one such case.

This is one of the reasons why institutions have embraced Institutional Review Board (IRB) regulations for oral history. Twenty years ago, this was almost uniformly not the case. We will look at IRB today, the "dangers" of oral history as perceived by institutions, and why this remains an area of oral history subject to future change.

This is still a hot topic as shown by this July, 2014 Boston Globe piece.

 CNN did an extended piece on it. This website seems to want the tapes out:

And then counter it with this Forbes article:

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Food and Class

Chapter three in Williams-Forson should offer us plenty of opportunity to discuss the role of different kinds of foods and their relationship to social class, particularly as they intersect with region and race.

But if I am successful with getting HBOGO to work in the classroom, I'm also going to show you a scene (it begins at 42:35) in season two, episode four of the series Boardwalk Empire in which the character "Chalkly" White demands some hoppin' john.

The idea of decorum, class, and their relationship with economic progress for African Americans is not an artifact of the past. We will encounter it with our understanding of Leah Chase.

I would like also, for a moment, to consider the work of Andre Perry. Dr. Perry was at Loyola and actually still keeps a residence here in New Orleans despite taking a job in Michigan. In fact, he's my neighbor. There will be a documentary to air on October 22 called Close Ties, about Perry's partnership with Chill's barbershop to instill pride and confidence in at-risk use through the use of ties.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Stereotyping Black Men with Chicken

Today we are going to discuss chapter 2 of Williams-Forson's work, which deals with negative stereotypes of black men and their relationship with chicken. This chapter covers many facets, and I have included some material here that will supplement what we have read.

Ben Vareen played the role of "Chicken George" in the landmark 1977 television miniseries, Roots. This is a brief interview segment with Oprah that we can interpret in class together.

Williams-Forson also has a lot to say about Paul Laurence Dunbar's Work, Clorundy, Origin of the Cakewalk

If you haven't seen the movie Hollywood Shuffle, then you should. Here is a scene that we will watch together. Robert Townsend wanted to make a film about how Hollywood treated black actors. No studio would make it, so he paid for it on his credit cards. It's incredibly poignant and remains very relevant, though it came out in 1987. And another scene "Black Acting School."

We also have many opportunities to consider images - both drawn and photographic - as well as oral histories. Let's be sure to spend some time discussing the ways in which Williams-Forson interprets or "listens" to these sources.

Let's also consider the power of the stereotyping of black men in our own era: Just this weekend we saw a Ferguson reference in college football when an FSU fan held up a sign that read "Hands Up! Don't Spear." Ironically, they were in support of FSU's African American QB. Jaemis Wilson. While at the same time, Oklahoma State fans got on Jaemis Wilson for his stealing of crab legs last summer.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Introduction to Williams-Forson & Chapter 1

Today we begin discussion of Williams-Forson's Building Houses out of Chicken Legs. This blog post is not designed to be an exhaustive recap of what we will cover in class, but it will offer a few highlights to help you think about why we are reading the book.

This book is a work in the field of American Studies, an interdisciplinary area of study that might include traditional methodologies such as history, art, musicology, archaeology, literary theory, etc. in combination to make a broad, typically cultural argument. I say "typically" because the field if American studies has grown more diverse to encompass the sciences, technology, economics, and business. Interdisciplinary scholarship at its best is exciting. Our class, like most First Year Seminars, has been designed to be interdisciplinary.

Whose story is the author of your book trying to tell?

Why is this story difficult to tell? 

In what way is the author being interdisciplinary in her approach?

Absorbing Interdisciplinary Scholarship:

I want you to build a curiosity about what you read, especially if it is unfamiliar material. Since we are almost always within reach of an internet enabled device, there really isn't any excuse for you to not learn more about the individuals and topics you encounter. Unfortunately, KFC has eliminated any available online copy of their rapping Colonel Sanders ad that the author mentions. What does its absence tell you?

Because American Studies is so interdisciplinary, your author will bring many sources to the table, like the KFC ad.

What are some of the sources that she analyzes to tell her story?

Why chicken?

What is the importance of the marketplace?