PublicHistory #magicalblackarchives: Reflections on Archival Silences Made Vocal in Narratives of Black Girls and Women

AHA Session 260
Saturday, January 7, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 1C (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Jennifer L. Morgan, New York University
Krystal Appiah, Library Company of Philadelphia
Paula C. Austin, California State University, Sacramento
Jennifer L. Morgan, New York University

Session Abstract

Recent scholarship on black women and girls and the new popular and academic spotlights on #blackgirlmagic and the #blacklivesmatter movements have enlivened discourse, interest, and research on the lived experiences of black women and girls. This work certainly stands on the shoulders of the scholarship of Darlene Clark Hine, Deborah Gray White, and other historians of Black women. Moreover, scholars today are benefiting heavily from recent slavery studies’ methodologies for mining silences in the archives. This panel brings together scholars interested in interrogating non-traditional archival materials to discuss the challenges and rewards involved in bringing to the fore the quotidian, the lived experiences, intellectual histories and subjectivities of Black women and girls.

With a focus on fragmented and oftentimes neglected sources such as scrapbooks, friendship albums, ephemera, and visual culture, Krystal Appiah discusses emerging archival theory that seeks to decolonize archival practices in order to center the lives and self-constructed identities of nineteenth century African American women. Using social science interviews from the interwar period, the very same that have been used to reinscribe black family pathologies, Paula Austin highlights interiority and intellectual histories of black poor and working class women and adolescent girls in the segregated interwar U.S. capital city, Washington, D.C. Lindsey Jones juxtaposes individual commitment records of the Department of Juvenile Justice and the optimistic narratives of black women child-savers, speculating about the adolescent voices nearly always left out of these records. Jones examines the discursive constructions of both juvenile delinquency and childhood innocence in the case of criminalized black girls in interwar Virginia. For Claudine Taafe, what is illuminated most when putting the lived experiences of African American youth and historical and contemporary discourse in conversation with each other, are the enduring silences that do not work in the interest of African American young people. Taafe remixes traditional qualitative and visual methods, such as photovoice and documentary photography, in her work with Black girls and women in Saving Our Lives, Hear Our Truths (SOLHOT) to create a photographic archive that contains visually-constructed counter-narratives to the stereotypes about Black girls.

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