Celebrating Black History Month — February is Black History Month (also known as African American History Month). For the members of the English Department, the history of African Americans relates in significant ways to our research and teaching. A perfect example of this relationship is Janaka Lewis’s current a research project on the history of girls’ play in African American communities. When I contacted Janaka and asked her for more information about her research, she sent me the following description:
My current research project, “Freedom to Play,” looks at narratives of girlhood in African American literature (19th through 21st centuries) and the ways play is both embraced as a tool of liberation and means of negotiating identity and also used to restrict the spaces in which black girls are able to move. Using authors that include Harriet Jacobs, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison, I discuss narratives of games that mimic the roles that young girls are expected to embody as adults, stories that are passed down from elders, and lessons that are taught about and through play in formal and informal educational settings. Along with scholarship about these narratives, my future goals are to create a black girlhood studies reader with excerpts of literary experiences in black girlhood (which I will design for a future course) and to incorporate the narratives as interactive experiences for a broad audience.
As the above description makes clear, Janaka’s current project connects in many ways to the various curricular and research areas that are encompassed within the English Department. Her examination of works of African American literature supports our concentration in Literature and Culture as well as our minor in Diverse Literature and Cultural Studies. Her focus on children’s play has direct connections to our minor in Children’s Literature and Childhood Studies. Her emphasis on the history of African American girlhood contributes to the English Department’s long-time relationship with the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. Her consideration of “lessons” and “educational settings” connects to our departmental commitment to English Education. In other words, the research on African American history that Janaka and other members of our English Department do is integral to the work of the English Department.
Kudos — As you know, I like to use my Monday Missives to share news about recent accomplishments by members of our department. Here is the latest news:
Paula Eckard recently participated in a panel discussion on The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter sponsored by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, the Charlotte Film Society, and Charlotte Lit.
Janaka Lewis recently led a workshop on the book Hidden Figures with a group of middle school students from Hickory Ridge Middle School in Harrisburg.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines— Here is information about an upcoming event.
Feb 13 – The Faculty/Staff performance of “Tales From Down There” will be on Monday, February 13 at 7pm in McKnight Hall. This performance will include appearances by the following people associated with the English Department: Janaka Lewis, Tiffany Morin, Angie Williams, Alison Walsh, and Shannon Bauerle. Advanced tickets can be purchased on-line at https://ecom.uncc.edu/C21561_ustores/web/store_main.jsp?STOREID=147&SINGLESTORE=true or with cash only at the door.
Quirky Quiz Question — Black History Month was officially recognized by the United States government in 1976 as part of a larger celebration of American history. What was the name of this national event celebrating American history?
Last week’s answer: Ellis Island
Like many Polish Jews who immigrated to America during the turn of the last century, my father’s grandparents settled in New York City. However, before they established homes in New York City, they first passed through a famous immigration processing center located on an island. What is the name of this island?