November 3, 2014

Presentation: Remixing the “Silent Protest” (1968): Oral History and the Strategic Potential of the (Public) Digital Humanities

Originally delivered October 2013, at the Oral History Association’s annual conference (Oklahoma City, OK), as part of a panel called “Remixing Oral History:  Toward a Federal Writers’ Project 2.0″ (abstract below)

Remixing Oral History:  Toward a Federal Writers’ Project 2.0

Keywords: local, digital humanities, activism, 1960s, civil rights, rural, urban, agency, race and racism, East Texas, Brooklyn, New York, WPA, FWP, oral history, video, archival development, community

 Summary: The proposed panel features two projects–funded, in part, by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities. Both make strategic use of oral history interviews for the recovery, interpretation, preservation, and delivery of forgotten, contested, or otherwise underrepresented stories about local activism in the 1960s—one urban, Northern, and community-led (Brooklyn); the other rural, Southern, and initiated by students on a recently desegregated community (Texas). Both projects, funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities, have been inspired by the Federal Writers’ Project, especially the American Guide Series (see Hirsch 2008). After sharing two brief videos emerging from each project, the panelists will discuss FWP and the potential role to played by the digital humanities in bringing communities and universities together to capture hidden histories and to remember those forgotten.

 Speaker 1-3 will present “A Clear Channel” (ACC), a short (18:16 minute) documentary about East Texas activism in 1967-1968, remixed from primary source materials (oral histories, images, video), native audio and video, and a range of scholarly and contemporary texts. The first three speakers are the Project Director and research team for Remixing Rural Texas: Local Texts, Global Contexts, the larger project from which “ACC” emerged. As they will illustrate, RRT makes strategic use of digital tools to bring together archivists, historians, instructional technology professionals, and humanities scholars with students and the community for archival development and interpretation of local stories surrounding race and race relations at a particularly divisive moment. The impact on our local community and these particular activities has been significant, bringing together campus and community by renewing attention to historical examples of civic engagement. Through RRT, the African Americans in East Texas Collection at Texas A&M University-Commerce library witnessed unprecedented growth in both its content and use. RRT alone has contributed dozens of oral history interviews and related artifacts previously scattered across the region.

 Speaker 3 will present The Pathways to Freedom Digital Narrative Project, which also brings together campus and community to tell forgotten stories. She will describe her work with the Brooklyn Civil Rights Oral History Collection in connection to the educational program Students and Faculty in the Archives (SAFA), directed by the Brooklyn Historical Society and supported by a Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education grant, and the Pathways to Freedom Digital Narrative Project, funded by an NEH Digital Humanities Startup grant. As part of SAFA, which brings first year college students into the archives to do primary research, a team of LIU Brooklyn

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