To Speak Out....(And Speak Back)

Muhammad Speaks June 24 1966 pg1.JPG
Muhammad Speaks June 24 1966 pg4.JPG
Muhammad Speaks June 24 1966 pg7.JPG

Civil Rights Activists became historical figures because they spoke out, but historians who engage them learned that they also spoke back when historical production clashed with issues of authority, ownership, and intention when it came to telling their stories.  The Harambee City book acknowledges this tension in its preface, and insisted that civil rights historians had to incorporate oral history theories of shared authority and civil rights concepts like participatory democracy.  This did not mean that activists crafted the narrative or the argument, but it did mean they could engage the text, challenge, excoriate it, or argue for changing it.  Sometimes I took these speak backs into consideration, and sometimes I did not - particularly when it countered historical evidence.  The text occassionally noted these comments in footnotes, however a book by its very nature is rigid space where once written effectively remains unchanged. 

This is partially why there is a website that corresponds to the text.  I created a conversation space that is ongoing well after publication.  New memories, counter arguments, or even corrections can exist here which makes CORE's history an ever evolving narrative.

Another consideration is the relationship between the historian and the historical figure.  Often
Black studies insists that scholars not act to further suppress oppressed people's history, ideologies, culture, and lives.  This online digital collection thus mutes the "expert" (scholar) in an attempt to validate the existence of black voices without interpretation.

I considered adding in order to allow annotated commentary from myself and perhaps civil rights activists or other scholars who view the site.  Viewers could see both my comment and that of the audience, which would facilitate a second level of learning or exchange and help them think about history as a fluid tension between document source, memory, and historical analysis.  However, this consideration was set aside given the number of documents, the archival structure (document focus versus historian synthesis assertion), and the potential unwiedly nature of multi-layered conversations which could drown out the document/voice itself. 

Instead, I simply included Omeka's commenting plug-in.  Any person may question an image, recall a memory, or share their thoughts for each document.  This is NOT an infallible process.  On the one hand, the general public, researchers, students, and activiists can share their ideas.  On the other, the commenting plug-in has a moderator function which allows me to delete, approve, unapprove, flag, and unflag comments.  At this juncture, the question of shared authority becomes once again unbalanced.  To limit this imbalance, only extreme historically questionable accounts (i.e. I saw aliens kidnap Martin Luther King, Jr.), unrelated miscellany, or vulgar exchanges will be removed.  I recognize that this method is not transparent, but it is open to question via the "contact us" portal until such find that I find a platform which matches the need of the Harambee digital archives.