Social Histories Project Notes #1

Hi All,

I struggled to decide how to present this information.  After going back and forth, I settled on this forum.  My journey over the past few weeks has been both distractions and joys.  You know I’m all about the retorical hunt.  I had a small nibble of interest for a search in the NYC area.  From some of my reading, I found that “She” had a personal relationship with Lydia Maria Child.  Both names were mentioned in connection to a very important artifact.  Since the Baca Lecture I thought it would be great if I could anchor my research around an artifact.  It would be great if that were possible, to think such an artifact could have survived for so long and needed its proper placement within Social History.  So I wanted to know more about Lydia Maria Child.  I was thinking that maybe from the Child connection, it would lead me to more evidence.

If my research of Child, I found that she had a small personal collection in NYC at Columbia University.  I was so excited.  If you will remember, I was in NYC at the time for NCTE.  So I thought, what could it hurt?  After my online search and a call to C.U., it led me to the archives at Columbia University.  In its Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection, there is a small collection of papers for Lydia Maria Child.  The librarian said that it was one box.  I didn’t believe that I could get to C.U. because I had meetings, so the librarian agreed to pull the box from storage and hold it for me.  I know, I could have asked her to go through the box.  But it was clear from our call that she had very little archival research experience and would most likely be the only one available before the holiday. 

The next week, I returned to NYC on Wednesday before CU’s closing for Thankgiving Break.  I was hopeful.  Due to my train schedule and its short delay, along with trying to catch the subway to CU once I arrived in NYC, I had less than an hour to go through the box.  From my quick search, the box held no jewel for my current project.  But it did give me an idea for another project that I can do in the future.   I was able to find the Child information through another source.

Reading for my project:

I just finish reading Elaine Richardson’s chapter: “Black/Folk/Disoursez,” which gives an overview of Black and African American Vernacular Discourses, and I’m currently reading Geneva Smitherman’s _Talkin and Testifyin: The Language of Black America_.  I can’t say enough about this book.  Smitherman not only gives the historical relevance for Black Enlish, she also gives the cultural/social and linguistically importance of the language.  It has also given me ideas for WRT 205. 

Smitherman stated, “As slaves became more American and less African, the Black English Creole also became less Africanized.  It began to be leveled out in the direction of White English and to lose its distinctive African structrual features–that is, the Black English Creole became de-creolized.  This process was undoubtedly quite intense and extensive during the Abolitionist period and certainly following Emancipation” (11).  Smitherman’s publication will directly aid my project.

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2 Responses to Social Histories Project Notes #1

  1. Eileen Schell says:

    I’m glad that the box at CU gave you some ideas for a future project. I was hoping it would not be a dead end. I look forward to hearing more about what you found out about the Child-“She” connection. When I sent you those notes that I found, I got hooked on the question of their interaction and relationship. I think a connection between Smitherman and your analysis of “She” will be a good one. I think the question of how she was received and understood at the time and also the question of how she is perceived now (as a rhetorician) or not is an interesting angle worth pursuing. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to our last conversation where you mentioned your interest in understanding how someone as prominent as “She” as a public speaker/public figure could be ignored as a rhetorician.

  2. Hey Reva – I’ve just been browsing the project blog entries of our community. In fact, I just read Laurie’s entry about the concept of “indian” being an archive itself – and then I hopped on over to your entry here. It occurs to me that you and Laurie might really be working within similar paradigms here. By this I mean – are you implying that this project be an archival project of a “concept”? We didn’t get much time to talk about this in line at People’s Place the other day so I’m not sure exactly where you’re headed, but I’m curious about how “She” – her historic construction, representations of her as rhetor (and the LACK of those representations) – might be tied up in some of the same conceptual archives Smitherman implicitly tackles in Talkin and Testifyin…?

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