(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Black history

“Taxonomy is described sometimes as a science and sometimes as an art, but really it’s a battleground”*…

Dorothy Porter in 1939, at her desk in the Carnegie Library at Howard University.

In a 1995 interview with Linton Weeks of the Washington Post, the Howard University librarian, collector, and self-described “bibliomaniac” Dorothy Porter (1905–95) reflected on the focus of her 43-year career: “The only rewarding thing for me is to bring to light information that no one knows. What’s the point of rehashing the same old thing?” For Porter, this mission involved not only collecting and preserving a wide range of materials related to the global Black experience, but also addressing how these works demanded new and specific qualitative and quantitative approaches in order to collect, assess, and catalog them…

As Thomas C. Battle writes in a 1988 essay on the history of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, the breadth of the two collections showed the Howard librarians that “no American library had a suitable classification scheme for Black materials.” An “initial development of a satisfactory classification scheme,” writes Battle, was first undertaken by four women on the staff of the Howard University Library: Lula V. Allen, Edith Brown, Lula E. Conner, and Rosa C. Hershaw. The idea was to prioritize the scholarly and intellectual significance and coherence of materials that had been marginalized by Eurocentric conceptions of knowledge and knowledge production. These women paved the way for Dorothy Porter’s new system, which departed from the prevailing catalog classifications in important ways.

All of the libraries that Porter consulted for guidance relied on the Dewey Decimal Classification. “Now in [that] system, they had one number—326—that meant slavery, and they had one other number—325, as I recall it—that meant colonization,” she explained in her oral history. In many “white libraries,” she continued, “every book, whether it was a book of poems by James Weldon Johnson, who everyone knew was a black poet, went under 325. And that was stupid to me.”

Consequently, instead of using the Dewey system, Porter classified works by genre and author to highlight the foundational role of Black people in all subject areas, which she identified as art, anthropology, communications, demography, economics, education, geography, history, health, international relations, linguistics, literature, medicine, music, political science, sociology, sports, and religion.

This Africana approach to cataloging was very much in line with the priorities of the Harlem Renaissance, as described by Howard University professor Alain Locke in his period-defining essay of 1925, “Enter the New Negro.” Heralding the death of the “Old Negro” as an object of study and a problem for whites to manage, Locke proclaimed, “It is time to scrap the fictions, garret the bogeys and settle down to a realistic facing of facts.” Scholarship from a Black perspective, Locke argued, would combat racist stereotypes and false narratives while celebrating the advent of Black self-representation in art and politics. Porter’s classification system challenged racism where it was produced by centering work by and about Black people within scholarly conversations around the world.

How Dorothy Porter assembled and organized a premier Africana research collection– and helped change academia: “Cataloging Black Knowledge.”

See also “African American Print Culture.”

* Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

###

As we contemplate cataloguing, we might recall that it was on this date in 1909 that a group including W. E. B. Du Bois, Mary White Ovington, Moorfield Storey, and Ida B. Wells formed the NAACP— The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People– an interracial organization dedicated to advancing justice for African Americans. 112 years later, its work continues.

source

“A great chessplayer is not a great man, for he leaves the world as he found it”*…

 

A young, fatherless Barack Obama boarded a plane to Jakarta when he was just 6, but the boy who would become General Hannibal alighted from a slave ship in Constantinople in chains at the same age, having been abducted by pirates and separated (permanently) from his family and his homeland (likely modern-day Chad). A Russian spy took an interest in the exotic-looking boy belonging to the Sultan of Turkey, rescued him from a life of slavery and brought him back to Moscow as a present for Czar Peter the Great, who adopted the precocious boy as his godson…

The extraordinary story of Abram Petrovich Gannibal (or Hannibal), Afro-Russian nobleman, military engineer, and general who was raised in the Emperor’s household, and eventually rose to become a prominent member of the imperial court in the reign of Peter’s daughter Elizabeth, and was the great-grandfather of the author and poet Alexander Pushkin: “The dark star of the Enlightenment.”

* William Hazlitt, Table-Talk, Essays on Men and Manners

###

As we give credit where credit is due, we might recall that it was on this date in 1920 that historian, author, and journalist Carter G. Woodson founded Associated Publishers, the oldest African-American publishing company in the United States.  Six years later, Woodson– who founded both the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and The Journal of Negro History— inaugurated Black History Week (the second week in February, chosen as it contains the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass), which later grew to become Black History Month.

 source

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

February 26, 2016 at 1:01 am

Color me _____ …

Feeling  _____?  About to head out for a night on the town in _____?  Then dress in _____!

From Zoho:Lab, an interactive version of (R)D favorite David McCandless’ “Colours of Cultures“…

click the image above, or here, for full-screen interactive version

And for a grid version, click here.

As we reorganize our sock drawers, we might recall that on this date in 1896 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that color mattered in a different kind of way: it ruled that separate-but-equal facilities were constitutional on intrastate railroads.  For half a century thereafter, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision upheld the principle of racial segregation in the U.S., across which laws mandated separate accommodations on buses and trains, and in hotels, theaters, and schools.  While the Court’s majority opinion denied that legalized segregation connoted inferiority, a dissenting opinion from Justice John Marshall Harlan argued that segregation in public facilities smacked of servitude and abridged the principle of equality under the law.

At a Rome, Georgia bus station, 1949 (source)

%d bloggers like this: