Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Who Speaks for the Negro Audio Archive

Maybe this should have been posted on the library blog but I think this Robert Penn Warren audio archive has a resonance beyond libraries collections. I've been reading the transcripts of some of the recordings. Some of narrative is a challenging read.

Not because of the subject matter. It is because much of what these people experienced is being re-vamped for this time. The Voter ID Card/Poll Tax obstacle course is but one example.

http://whospeaks.library.vanderbilt.edu

Author Robert Penn Warren toted a reel to reel tape machine and spoke with the humble and the famous folks during the time of the Civil Rights movement.

These tapes have been digitized and there are transcripts of the conversations. It is a wonderful and yet hurtful look at how we have and have not changed.

Reverend Joe Clark talks about folks being color struck and self hateful that they do all they can not to be black:
...And, the upshot of it all is the only thing that they have to base this artificial situation on is the color of their skin and the texture of their hair, which to me is not a satisfying standard, because after all we had nothing to do with it. You have no personal sense of accomplishment in being fair with light skin and when you look beyond the skin color and the hair texture and you ask, well, what have you done to justify your existence here – and – then in ninety nine cases out of a hundred there is nothing there. 
There are contemporary 21st Century music performers doing the same things. Straight up minstrel shows for profit. Assimilation 101.

There is a lot of historical grounding in the audio. These are not the mythical people found in my elementary school history books. This is" my life is on the line and I want folks to know why" documentation.

Funny how some of the old tropes are being re-worked in the current election. Words like lazy. Subsidies. Nanny state.  Swap out communism for socialism and you can see how much has and hasn't changed.

You can listen to the audio on the site or you can read the transcripts. I would suggest you start with the non-famous folks first. They need to be heard.



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