Election night coverage from students at The College of New Jersey
I was pleased to see that my post on user experience design in journalism education attracted the attention of a blogger who is pursuing graduate studies in Interactive Media with a focus in precisely this area. (Can’t find the blogger’s name, I’m afraid, but the blog is called UX+JX, which is catchy and cute in a geeky way.) I’ll be looking forward to the progress of this new colleague’s dissertation research. I’m also grateful for the pointer to Cindy Royal’s fascinating 2010 ethnography (.pdf) of the New York Times Interactive desk. Perusing her site, I also came across this May, 2009 Online Journalism Review article on News as User Experience, which serves as a decent general introduction to the concept for news organizations.
Get the background on this event at the TCNJ African American Studies Department website. I am producing this chat in my capacity as department chair as part of the AFAM Salon series.
I took these notes at the NABJ convention in Philadelphia in early August. Although I never got a chance to refine them, the notes will be useful for the Social Media class I will be teaching next semester.
Topic: What makes a multimedia blog successful?
Dan Farber -Great content. – the same things that make for great journalism
Neal Scarborough -Before you worry about multimedia as a blogger, decide who you are as a blogger, where your audience is or what they want.
Clay Cane – Find your style, your tone, and what you are passionate writing about. He started with a personal blog and was discovered by BET because he built a strong following. “It really is being your own brand, and selling yourself.”
Sarah Bernard, Deputy Director of Digital Strategy, the White House: Use your blog to cover undeserved stories. Be consistent.
Question: How do you drive traffic?
Clay Cane collects email subscriptions, sends out blasts when he has big news. Example: he posted an interview with Janet Jackson to his site and sent out masse emails. Some major news sites picked it up and linked to him.
Farber: learn about SEO
Moderator Markette Smith: Shows Alexa.com. She is collecting questions via twitter at #nabjbloggingandbeyond. Question: can we attract advertising?
Cane: He got started with Blogads.com. Notes that advertising market has changed.
Scarborough: “Blogging has really opened up.” Bites that Richard Branson has a blog.
Question: Publisher of a niche blog for lawyers wants to know how to make more money.
Moderator Smith tries to go back to how to make money.
More later: running out of power and this room is short on outlets.
One of my major teaching responsibilities at The College of New Jersey is a course called, Writing for Interactive Multimedia. For the last 15 years, we have been using that course as a way to introduce our journalism students to basic coding in html and, more recently, css. Initially a course for the journalism and professional writing major, it has also been required for Interactive Multimedia majors since 2003. There are dual challenges in this arrangement, as well as opportunities. One of the challenges is that students come to the class with varied levels of interest in, and affinity for coding. On the other hand, having students with different levels of proficiency creates opportunities for peer mentoring and collaboration in the classroom.
Also, I posit that a systematic and disciplined approach to studying html and css can be helpful for students who might have gaps in their understanding because they are largely self-taught. Finally, because coding is in a constant state of evolution, it is important to establish a culture of continual learning and experimentation – something that might be familiar to students of computing and interactive media, but which tends to be novel for journalism majors.
These are lofty ideals, but are often challenging in practice. In the past, I have taught html through demonstration, having students follow me and practice their initial coding in the class. I have tried a number of online tutorials and physical textbooks. I have spent lots of time assisting students in labs as they practiced coding, and have had more experienced students work with novice students. Currently, I’m using Virginial DeBolt’s Mastering Integrated HTML and CSS.) This approach works well enough to get students to learn some rudimentary skills, but it has not created the kind of cultural change or deep understanding that I was trying to establish.
This semester, I tried something new – I am focusing on html and css as languages that can be translated into English, and vice-versa. Here are some exercises I have created to teach and reinforce fundamental concepts. This is a work in progress, but students tell me that they enjoy these exercises and find them helpful.
1. A conversation in English and HTML
After my students had been introduced to html through readings and class discussion, I suggested to them that we have an oral conversation in which I posed as a web browser and they were the web designer. I told them to initiate a web page. One of the students said, “html.”
I said, ” I am being asked to display a webpage. I expect I will get some information about it soon.”
A student said, “head.”
I said, “This is the header. I will know learn the special rules I need to know to display this page.”
A student said, “title…”
We went on like this until we had described a page with links, text and images. There was a lot of laughter in the process. Then we practiced scripting pages.
2. Translating English to HTML and CSS
I wrote the following sentences on the board and asked the students to pair up to turn the sentences into HTML and CSS:
- This is the beginning of my webpage.
- The title of my page is “My resume.”
- In my page, the headlines will be in the font Verdana.
- In my page, the body type will be in the font Georgia.
- The background color of my page will be 255 255 204
- The content that will be displayed on my page begins here.
- This page is linked to my homepage.
- The content to be displayed ends here.
- This is the end of my web page.
After working on this for 10-15 minutes, I called volunteers up to ask them to write the appropriate lines of html and css.
3. Commenting out HTML and CSS
A conversation with my computer science colleagues Miroslav Martinovic and Monisha Pulimood led me to the idea of having students use commenting on their webpages. Essentially, I am beginning to tell them to write out what they are trying to do each line of HTML and CSS as they script. The purpose of this is similar to the purpose of commenting on code generally – so that students can have a record for themselves or other coders of what they were trying to do. I anticipate that this will help me and peer tutors or collaborators be more effective in helping them as well.
I am working on some other exercises, including kinesthetic approaches to teaching about concepts such as relative and absolute links. I have also approached a colleaguein our World Languages and Cultures department about ways in which this might be developed into a more formal system of instruction. If anyone knows of others who are teaching this way, I’m interested in their results.
Liza Kaczmarscyk does a nice job of capturing the first day of discussion at our meeting on Creating a Climate for Interdisciplinary Computing. The discussion on computational journalism to which she alludes was initiated by yours truly and Rich Gordon from the Medill School at Northwestern University. Other journalists here include Jonathan Tracy from the AP, Michelle Ferrier from Elon University, and Barbara Iverson from Columbia College, Chicago.
Table of contents for Computational thinking in journalism
- As we change journalism education, we need to study journalism learners
- A foundational concept for the new news economy
- What Would WEB Du Bois Tell Henry Jenkins and Soulja Boy?
- Building the bridge between journalism and computer science
- Can VIBE magazine be saved? And should we care?
- Scratch as a Tool for Teaching Computational Journalism
- Crafting Literary Journalism
- How stories and network science could improve educational equity and diversity
- What computing and informatics tools will help Haiti?
- Why I fear I’ll never master SEO
- You’re gonna need to read this, but it won’t be on Amazon
- Scholastic Journalism Education as a Tool for Teaching Computational Thinking
- How should journalism educators teach and study social media?
- What is a computational journalist?
- The Food Stamp Game: a test case for teaching computational journalism, part 1
- On teaching game design in a journalism course, part 2
- On teaching game design in a journalism class, part 3
- On teaching game design in a journalism class, Part 4: Newsgames as literary journalism
The Criteria for Negro Art in the Age of Computational Media
In June, 2008, I attended a presentation in which Henry Jenkins, then Director of the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, contemplated the lessons of Soulja Boy Tellem’s use of what he calls “participatory culture” to create a career as a hip-hop star. Jenkins described how teenager DeAndre Ramone Way (Soulja Boy) built a fan base by posting the music and a home video of his song, “Crank Dat,” and encouraging listeners to remix it, make video responses to it, and share it freely. (The presentation video is only available to members of the New Media Consortium.)
The process illustrates Jenkins’ concept of “spreadable” culture — a term that he argues is more accurate than the ”viral” model, since viruses proliferate by attacking their hosts, while “spreadable” culture invites voluntary participation. He showed examples of fan videos of “Crank Dat,” including produced by his MIT grad students. Then Jenkins paralleled Soulja Boy’s encouragement of artistic appropriation and the cultural borrowing employed by Herman Melville in crafting Moby Dick.
In his blog, Jenkins mused about Soulja Boy’s precocity:
I can’t decide what fascinates me the most about this story: the fact that this teenager broke into the front ranks of the entertainment industry by using tools and processes which in theory are accessible to every other person of his generation or the fact that he has recognized intuitively the value in spreading his content and engaging his audience as an active part of his promotional process.
Jenkins did not address the actual lyrical content of Soulja Boy’s music, and the actual ideas being packaged in the catchy beat and the playful dance steps. The content wasn’t the point of the presentation. The lyrics offer the kind of puerile vulgarity one might expect from a boy who is trying to impress his peers with stories about his sexual prowess and toughness. ”Crank Dat” includes such lines as:
“Soulja boy off on this hoe…
“Then Superman that hoe…”
“I’m jocking on your bitch ass
And if we get the fighting
Then I’m cocking on your bitch ass…”
The lyrics reflect the cliches associated with the worst of hip-hop: degrading women while declaring dominance over other males by feminizing and threatening them. When Soulja Boy released “Crank Dat,” he was a 16-year-old high school student, and the song was spread largely by other teenagers. The character that Way portrays in the video is the stereotypical black male hip-hopper: hypersexual, prone to violence, gaudily attired. But the implausibility of the lyrics suggest that, like most amateur writers, Way is imitating what he has heard or gleaned from listening to others, not writing from life experience.
Jenkins showed videos of smiling teenagers and young adults bouncing on one foot, cranking their arms and lunging forward to make the “Superman” gesture.
In conversations with other conference participants, I seemed to have been the only person who was profoundly disturbed by the content that Way, AKA Soulja Boy, his minions, and ultimately, his record company were spreading. In part, I later learned, that was because many of my colleagues weren’t familiar with the lyrics. There was also the fact that “Crank Dat” was only another in a long list of songs, cartoons, games and other media content that they knew kids were exposed too. It wasn’t the worst thing most kids would be exposed to. And after all, it’s not as if vulgar or even racially stereotypical music originated with remix culture.
I probably sounded like the scolds of the 1950s yelling about rock and roll, or the highbrows at the beginning of the 20th century inveighing against comic books and “pulp” novels. The Republic was still standing. I’m sure some thought I needed to smooth out that bunch in my panties and move on.
Or maybe not. The practice of analyzing form and distribution apart form content sits well within the tradition of media studies, going back to Marshall McLuhan’s declaration that “The Medium is the message,” and in rhetorical terms, “The medium is the massage.” However, I find Kathleen Welch persuasive when she argues that rhetorical analysis of both content and delivery is important to understanding the social justice implications of modern communications. If one follows the history of remixing trail of “Crank Dat,” one finds that its commercial success, facilitated by social media, led to the song being played in venues that would have been unimaginable in earlier times.
For example, a few months earlier, I had been sent a link to another performance of the song by a frustrated colleague and fellow member of the National Association of Black Journalists. It seemed that someone thought it would be fun to liven up a New York local morning traffic report with a performance of the song. The traffic reporter, Jill Nicolini, was part of the morning news “happy talk” format. A former Playboy bunny and occasional reality TV star, she routinely drafted men to dance with her after detailing the morning’s jams, delays, and alternate side-of-the-street parking rules. On this particular morning, she summoned Craig Treadway, the co-anchor, as her dance partner.
The most telling moment for me was when Treadway broke into a tap dance. What was Treadway’s shuffle? And what do we make of the black male crew member bunny-hopping in the background?
I don’t know Mr. Treadway, Nicolini or any of the other members of that newscast, and I have hesitated for more than a year about writing this post because I’m not trying to cast aspersions on him or any other cast member of the show. If this post does that, I apologize in advance. They were doing their jobs, and perhaps they even had some fun. What I am trying to probe, as delicately as possible, is the meaning of the moment for journalistic norms in the age of remix culture.
Of course, the packaging of local television news as entertainment has been going on for a long time. A quarter-century ago, Neil Postman demonstrated the emerging parallels between the television news show and a television show designed as entertainment in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in an Age of Entertainment (Penguin, 1985.):
“If you were the producer of a television news show for a commercial station, you would not have the option of defying television’s requirements…. You would try to make celebrities of your newscasters…. You would have a weatherman [sic] as comic relief, and a sportscaster who is a touch uncouth (as a way to relate to the beer-drinking common man.) You would package the whole event as any producer might who is in the entertainment business.
“The result of all this is that Americans are the best entertained and quite likely the least well-informed people in the world….” (p. 106)
I came of age professionally during the early 1980s, so as a news consumer and media professional, I understand the pecking order of news shows. The anchor might smile and exchange some banter, but the anchor stayed dignified. I wasn’t thrilled at Nicolini’s shtick, but I understood it for the reasons, Postman described. What I wasn’t ready for was an anchorman to be drawn into the clowning. It is very likely that what stuck in my craw was the sight of Treadway, who probably had to endure a great deal to attain an anchor desk in a major market, pulled out of the role on which, traditionally, his credibility rested.
There is one sense in which the problem is entirely mine, because it represents a collapsing of norms my generation of media professionals can’t quite stomach. It has become clear in recent years that there is a great deal of skepticism about the kinds of conventions that journalists traditionally adopt, whether it be certain standards of decorum, or a studied modesty about stating their political views. Even a growing number of journalists reject that last standard.
Then, too, there is the shifting calculus of racial symbolism to consider. Surely, the sight of a black man dancing alongside a young white female in 2008 does not mean what it meant in my childhood during the 1960s. In those days, such a sight was restricted to Shirley Temple movies. Treadway and Nicolini’s performance occurred the same year that a man with an African father and a wife descended from slaves won the White House.
It’s unlikely that WEB Du Bois would have approved of SouljaBoyTellem’s art, or much of hip-hop, for that matter. The pioneering scholar, editor and activist hoped that those African Americans who gained access to the instruments of culture making would infuse high culture with the gifts of Africa. For him that meant spirituals (delivered Jubilee-style, of course) the vibrancy of traditional African art and artisanship, the nuanced poesy of a Jessie Fauset or Countee Cullen, with the occasional swinging riff from the deceptively accessible Langston Hughes. In his definitive essay on aesthetics, The Criteria of Negro Art, he implored:
“If you tonight suddenly should become full-fledged Americans; if your color faded, or the color line here in Chicago was miraculously forgotten; suppose, too, you became at the same time rich and powerful; — what is it that you would want? What would you immediately seek? Would you buy the most powerful of motor cars and outrace Cook County? Would you buy the most elaborate estate on the North Shore? Would you be a Rotarian or a Lion or a What-not of the very last degree? Would you wear the most striking clothes, give the richest dinners, and buy the longest press notices?
“Even as you visualize such ideals you know in your hearts that these are not the things you really want. You realize this sooner than the average white American because, pushed aside as we have been in America, there has come to us not only a certain distaste for the tawdry and flamboyant but a vision of what the world could be if it were really a beautiful world; if we had the true spirit; if we had the Seeing Eye, the Cunning Hand, the Feeling Heart; if we had, to be sure, not perfect happiness, but plenty of good hard work, the inevitable suffering that always comes with life; sacrifice and waiting, all that — but, nevertheless, lived in a world where men know, where men create, where they realize themselves and where they enjoy life. It is that sort of a world we want to create for ourselves and for all America.”
Part of Jenkins’ point is that participatory media expands the ranks of the tastemakers beyond Hollywood elites, intellectuals, and activists. Jay Rosen has been saying similar things about the shift to participatory journalism in essays such as The People Formerly Known as the Audience.” But when the ethos from which these new media products emerge can be tainted by values that are corrosive, a critical perspective is necessary.
In her essay, “Learning the 5 Lessons of Youtube: After Trying to Teach There, I Don’t Believe the Hype,” Alexandra Juhasz makes the argument that corporate dominance of this major media sharing site has turned do-it-yourself culture into a tool for replicating ideas and values that are fundamentally anti-democratic. In particular, she and her students found that depictions of African Americans that reinforce vulgar race and gender stereotypes are more popular, and thus more prominently featured, than those promoting more positive images or cultural critique.
And this is part of my concern, even as I contribute to this participatory culture and teach students to do it as well. The uncritical replication of negative images of black males in particularly is particularly vexing, because it undermines the effort to transfer of positive values from one generation to the next. In some ways, the current environment is arguably more challenging than the pre-Civil rights era, because in those days, there were alternative, black-controlled civic institutions that promoted images that countered the stereotypes of the dominant culture. Byron Hurt’s 2008 mini-documentary demonstrated Barack Obama’s rise exposed a deep-seated confusion and ambivalence about the possibilities of success, respect and power for black men in an era that is supposed to be “post-racial:”
I thought about this ambivalence as I watched clips from DeAndre Ramone Way’s videoblog, which has since been removed. He has been known to talk about his interests in art, education, and business along with his “beefs” with other rappers, his jewelry and his cars. Pop culture never was a good place for a complicated persona. When pop culture goes “spreadable,” what gets lost? Sometimes I’m afraid it’s the substance of a culture that we can’t afford to lose.
Table of contents for ASALH 95th annual convention
- Reflections en route to the ASALH Convention
- Report from ASALH: A conversation about the Crafting Freedom project
Laurel Sneed and Beverly McNeill talk about the Crafting Freedom project, a curriculum resource project that offers teachers lesson plans, primary resources and videos about nine North Carolina slave artisans who excelled during the antebellum era. Sneed and McNeill presented their work ; at the 95th annual convention of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History along with fellow educator Katherine Paulhamas and moderator Donna Thompson-Ray of the American Social History Project. This interview took place Sept. 30, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Table of contents for ASALH 95th annual convention
- Reflections en route to the ASALH Convention
- Report from ASALH: A conversation about the Crafting Freedom project
(Richmond Va. September 29 ) –
I am on an Amtrak train barreling south toward Raleigh, North Carolina for the 95th annual convention of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. It is a strange time to be in Raleigh in some ways, so near Duke University, where the towering scholar John Hope Franklin made his professional home for so many years. Next to ASALH founder Carter G. Woodson and Woodson’s contemporary WEB Du Bois, it is difficult to think of another academic historian whose work did more to correct the mistaken but popular belief that slavery was the beginning and end of the story of black people. Duke has a research center that bears Franklin’s name. ASALH’s journal archives and merchandise offerings include articles by Franklin and video interviews recording both intellectual and personal reflections on his life and work.
I expect that Franklin’s ideas and research will be everywhere at this convention, but the man will not. He died in March, 2009, as the nation was adjusting itself to the reality of having a President of visibly African descent. And yet, the historical moments that marked Franklin’s entry and exit speak volumes about the nature of history as a weapon, the lessons of past wars, and the challenge now confronting those of us who believe in using knowledge to improve the human condition.
Franklin was born on January 2. 1915; it would turn out to be a
momentous year for the United States, not just the Franklin family. If there was ever a moment that attested to the power that historians can wield, this was it. The president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson, held a Ph.D. in history. After promising to be a civil rights advocate to get black votes during the election of 1912, Wilson segregated the federal workforce, dismissing an appeal from civil rights leader Monroe Trotter with the contention that, “Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit…
Quotes from the fifth volume of Wilson’s encylopedic, “History of the American People,” had been used by filmmaker DW Griffith to lend credibility to his cinematic bouquet to the Ku Klux Klan, Birth of a Nation. Wilson screened the film in the White House, proclaiming it, “History written in lightning!” Protests from the National Association of Colored People and black newsThe KKK, weakened during the Grant administration, once again became a force in national life, with deadly consequences. Wilson also ordered American troops into Haiti in 1915 in what James Weldon Johnson’s investigative reporting revealed as an “imperialistic venture” that became “a dark blot on the American escutcheon.” Wilson’s scholarly expertise helped him fit these and other anti-democratic actions into an argument that, as he said of America’s entry into World War I, his administration was making the world “safe for democracy.”
Franklin’s birth year also coincided with the death of Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute (now University), the “Great Accommodator” who counseled blacks to patiently acquiesce to Jim Crow, develop their moral character and focus on vocational education and business development. In his autobiography, Up From Slavery Washington argued that following his advice would surely elicit the good will of the white power structure and result in fairer treatment for African Americans over time:
My own belief is, although I have never before said so in so many words, that the time will come when the Negro in the South will be accorded all the political rights which his ability, character, and material possessions entitle him to. I think, though, that the opportunity to freely exercise such political rights will not come in any large degree through outside or artificial forcing, but will be accorded to the Negro by the Southern white people themselves, and that they will protect him in the exercise of those rights.
As if to underscore the growing rejection of the accommodationist doctrine among African Americans and their allies, the premiere of Birth of a Nation that year occasioned wide-scale protests from both the NAACP and black newspapers such as Charlotta Bass’ California Eagle. We now know, of course that Washington himself was secretly engaged in some civil rights agitation of his own, by lending financial and material support to lawsuits aimed at attacking disfranchisment and segregated public accomodations, and unequal treatment in the criminal justice system.
From his earliest days, Franklin absorbed both the realities of racism and the belief that it had to be met with rigorous preparation of character and the determined pursuit of justice. The child of a lawyer father and a mother who was both a teacher and entrepreneur, Franklin was named for John Hope, then president of Morehouse College, and after 1929, president of Atlanta University. Hope had taught John Hope Franklin’s father, first at Roger Williams University, then Morehouse. had dared to envision an institution of higher learning where black youth were assumed to be capable of serious intellectual work. In this, he was allied with other black intellectuals such as the protean scholar-activist WEB Du Bois, the founder of Atlanta’s sociology department.
Like Hope, Du Bois believed that the truths revealed by rigorous research were the foundation on which public policy and civil rights advocacy should be based. Sometimes that research led to a starting and prescient view of world events, as in his May, 1915 essay, “African Roots of War.” While the US and its allies cast World War I as a battle to defend democracy, Du Bois cast it as a battle among Western powers to control the resources and markets of non-Western territories, especially in Africa:
“The present world war is, then, the result of jealousies engendered by the recent rise of armed national associations of labor and capital, whose aim is the exploitation of the wealth of the world mainly outside the European circle of nations. These associations, grown jealous and suspicious at the division of the spoils of trade-empire, are fighting to enlarge their respective shares; they look for expansion, not in Europe but in Asia, and particularly in Africa. ‘We want no inch of French territory,’ said Germany to England, but Germany was ‘unable to give’ similar assurances as to France in Africa.”
This is the kind of analysis that would be hotly debated in the coming years at ASALH conventions, and in the pages of the journals that it would come to publish, the Journal of African American History, the Black History Bulletin. and more recently, the Woodson Review
A Portrait of the Scholar as a Young Man
Like Hope and Du Bois, Franklin would hew to this creed as part of the next generation of scholars. He would take Du Bois’ example so seriously that he followed the elder scholar’s educational path: undergraduate study at Fisk, followed by a Ph.D. in history at Harvard. In his 2005 autobiography, A Mirror to America, he wrote,
“[I]t was armed with the tools of scholarship that I strove to dismantle those [racially restrictive] laws, level those obstacles and disadvantages, and replace superstitions with humane dignity.”
Carter G. Woodson’s ASALH would prove invaluable to the fulfillment of Franklin’s quest. Woodson, the second African American to earn a Ph. D. at Harvard after Du Bois, founded ASALH to promote, create and disseminate accurate information about African Americans not only among scholars and policymakers, but in homes, churches and communities. I’ve written elsewhere about the role that ASALH’s encyclopedias played in helping me see possibilities for myself beyond my limited childhood circumstances. In his autobiography, Franklin captures part of what is special about the ASALH annual conference in this description of the first one he attended, in 1936:
“The remarkable thing about this meeting, although I did not know it at the time, was how schoolteachers and laypeople were as much a part of the organization as the professionals. Dr. Woodson, serving as executive director, cultivated the teachers, for he was as determined to see Negro history taught in the schools as he was devoted to scholarship in the colleges. Thus, several schoolteachers read papers on the inclusion of Negro History in their school’s curriculum as, indeed, did several college professors.
“Dr. Woodson likewise emphasized the importance of making the association racially inclusive. Virginia’s white superintendent of education, Sidney Hall, as well as W. Herman Bell of Hampdon-Sydney College, Garnett Ryland of the University or Richmond, and other white scholars were in attendance.”
Franklin went on to describe how Woodson encouraged non-historians to assume leadership positions in the organizations, citing the 1936 election of Mary McLeod Bethune to the organization’s presidency. Franklin reports that he found himself invited to breakfast with Mrs. Bethune and others on the morning of her election, which came while she was on leave from the presidency of Bethune-Cookman college in order to serve in the Roosevelt administration. while at the convention, Franklin received word that his mother was seriously ill in Oklahoma. Both the president of Virginia State College, which was hosting the event, and Woodson himself offer him travel money to get home.
Everything Franklin describes about the convention he attended in 1936 reminds me of what I’ve seen during my attendance at prior ASALH conventions during the past decade. One still sees active involvement of lay historians and K-12 teachers alongside emerging and established scholars. Non-historians still have prominent leadership roles (including yours truly – I have served on the organization’s advisory board alongside Dr. Franklin and such prominent scholars as Henry Louis Gates, director of the WEB Du Bois Institute of Afro-American Studies at Harvard.)
Most impressive to me, the ethic of care between older and younger scholars is still very much in evidence. Talk to young academics who come to ASALH, and it is not unusual to hear them express their delight that a luminary such as Nell Painter, Darlene Clark Hine, or John Bracey or Daryl Michael Scott took the time to come to their session,or offer advice. I still recall my own delight at the 2003 convention when I happened to find myself in conversation with Dr. Edna McKenzie, a historian who began her career as a pioneering journalist documenting segregation in World War II-era Pittsburgh.
I have spent some time discussing the open and nurturing atmosphere at ASALH because I think it is essential to understanding how scholars such as Franklin, and indeed, Woodson himself, persevered in fostering the academic study of African Americans in the face of persistent ignorance and hostility. Franklin went on to produce books such as From Slavery to Freedom: a history of African Americans, which has remained in print for more than 60 years, and to become a nationally-respected authority on race. While the study of African American history and life is more widely accepted than it was in the early days of ASALH, serious students of history again find their field subjected to political forces that would discard and distort the historical record in favor of ideology. The most egregious recent example is the Texas school board’s euphemistic description of slavery as the “triangular trade.” There have, however, been other examples, such as the Christian school in North Carolina that gave students a pamphlet excusing slavery.
So on to ASALH, and a gimpse of new tomorrows through the lenses of the past.