Materials in Action
In a recent article for JSTOR's online magazine, New York reporter Debbie Nathan used digitized audio recordings from the Briscoe Center's UT Folklore Center Archives to tell the story of Harriet Smith, a former slave. Nathan's article has brought these recordings to the attention of the Library of Congress.
The Briscoe Center's UT Folklore Center Archives includes a seventeen-minute recording of Harriet Smith talking to interviewer John Henry Faulk in 1941. According to Nathan, the Library of Congress was previously unaware of this recording—a significant find considering that there are less than five hours of recordings in the United States that document the voices and recollections of former slaves.
Reminiscences (Aunt Harriet Smith), UT Folklore Center Archives. E_utfc_0359According to Nathan, the newly recognized audio includes "some unique material from a historical and sociolinguistic point of view." The recording begins with Smith recounting her childhood, milking "breedhorned" [longhorn] cows, plowing fields with oxen and community engagements such as camps and religious meetings. Smith also references slave trading before the "break-up" [American Civil War], the murder of her first husband during reconstruction, and an African American man who helped sell slaves.
From the article:
Smith gives utterly chilling reminiscences of slavery that I have not seen or heard in other narratives. She describes children being rounded up to be sold at auction. It wasn't a white person who did the rounding up. It was a "colored man," Smith says, perhaps to maintain calm among the children, to keep them from suspecting they were about to be sold. The colored man, Smith tells Faulk, "carry these children down. … He say, 'Bid that child a thousand dollars'… . Sold 'em just like you sell your stock in Austin.
UT Austin anthropology graduate Nedra Lee (pictured) researched Reconstruction-era African American newspapers to provide context for the items unearthed during the team's excavation. The farmstead site was fully excavated, and the team's findings have been presented as papers, online teaching materials and project records. The center is now home to the project's archives, which include oral history interviews, photographs, research files and project documentation.
"The center's newspaper resources gave us amazing context in which to place the items we were excavating. It's not just historians and journalists that can benefit from the Briscoe Center," says Lee, who is now an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts Boston. "In anthropology and archeology, archives can really help bridge the gap between discovery and analysis, teasing out new questions and conclusions along the way."
The Briscoe Center loaned a script, an award, and a reporter's notebook from the Cronkite Papers. The reporter's notebook was used by Cronkite while in Hue, Vietnam, in 1968. The script was read by Cronkite for his editorial during the resulting special report on the Vietnam War. The award was given to Cronkite in 1980.
The three items can be seen alongside original lyrics written by Bob Dylan, a Telstar satellite, a dress worn by Jacqueline Kennedy, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin's communications headset, a boxing glove worn and signed by Muhammad Ali, and an original Peanuts comic strip. The exhibit will be on display until January 4, 2015.
February 12, 2013 - Don Carleton discusses the origins of When I Rise on the Austin's Film Society's Slackerwood blog.
January 28, 2013 - The Texas Observer references Red Scare! by Don Carleton in their article Texas Media Lent Credence to Anti-Socialist Hysteria In the ’60s—Has Anything Changed?