Teaching Spaced Out: Teaching African American Lives and Labor through Historical Geography

AHA Session 144
Labor and Working Class History Association 3
Saturday, January 4, 2014: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Washington Room 6 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Susan E. O'Donovan, University of Memphis
Susan E. O'Donovan, University of Memphis

Session Abstract

Over the past twenty-five years, historical geography has witnessed a veritable boom in industry in the usage of maps, spatial data, and geographic information systems in documenting the historical past.  Influenced by Western Marxism and social science, geographers, historians, and students of history have employed various mapping techniques to bring new meaning to sites ranging from the Roman World, Concord, Gettysburg, the Dust Bowl, and the like.  At the same time, scholars have employed new methodologies and theoretical perspectives to explain the African American experience, giving rise to new issues and themes to explore in the teaching of African American history in the millennial classrooms of the twenty-first century. However, one important component of African American life—the historical mapping of Black identity, culture, and politics within the larger history of the United States and the ways in which black Americans themselves have used the mapping process to ascribe meaning to ideas of race, gender, class, and disability has eluded both bodies of scholarship.  The fact that both sets of literature have talked past each other poses a serious question to teachers and professors who are deeply engaged in teaching African American history:  that is, how do we get our students to understand that historical geography matters in understanding, interpreting, and explaining the African American experience?

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