History and Memory in African-American Culture

By Bartlett, Andrew | MELUS, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

History and Memory in African-American Culture


Bartlett, Andrew, MELUS


History and Memory in African-American Culture. Edited by Genevieve Fabre and Robert O'Meally. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. 321 pages. $18.95 paper.

The terms "history" and "memory" have taken on considerable import in recent criticism on American cultures and literatures, with a significant number of critics eliding issues like collective identity and communal "memory" by assigning memory to the personal/individual and history to a category of learned, rather than remembered, phenomena. History, in this paradigm, cannot be recalled, either collectively or individually, but can only be learned. This exaggerated dichotomy between history and memory leaves the individual, classical American (read: Euro-American), alone on the prairie of knowledge, with history as a disembodied force which we pretend to remember but only know through learned means.

Editors Genevieve Fabre and Robert O'Meally, writing in the introduction to this impressive volume, describe the binarily-inclined history/memory climate of scholarly opinion this way: "at least until quite recently, many observers would agree that while history at its finest is a discipline, memory is something else again, something less." Fabre and O'Meally, though, point out what may be obvious: "history" is not the sole domain of "historians." Novelists, musical composer-performers, visual artists in the African diaspora (and surely elsewhere) record their impressions and expressions in the interstices between that distant, hegemonically revered History and their individual positions on the present's horizon. History is far from simply removed from the personal, as David Blight shows in his perceptive reading of W.E.B. Du Bois as a historian who authored Black Reconstruction in America (1935) in part to reveal that since Reconstruction's close the "American historical community had not only subordinated the black experience but had rendered it virtually unknown" (46). Du Bois, who has been credited with configuring the entire modern corpus of "doubleness" discourse in regards to race, becomes in Blight's reading an incisive historiographer worthy of more attention, especially in light of the contemporary lionization of "history."

What this volume makes clear is that memory can by no means be considered separate from history or in any way definitely in contrast to the accepted hegemony of that discipline which heads up so many academic departments and monographs. Popular memory and practices which communalize memory of history are profuse in African American (and Afro-diasporic) traditions, Fabre and O'Meally's collection demonstrates, and this gives fine ground to so much postcolonial theory which seeks to reckon with temporality and the present in its "disjunct and displaced" relationship to the past and future. (1)

This text originates in a Ford Foundation-funded seminar at Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. Each of the eighteen scholars (including the editors) contributes an essay-transcription of their oral presentations at the seminar's final meeting. This oral-into-written process offers each essay a loose, informal tone and texture that collectively makes this volume highly readable but no less weighty for that readability. The essays' collective range is immense; from segregation in American cemeteries to Katherine Dunham's Afro-Caribbean choreography, with stopovers at the "blues aesthetic" in Aaron Douglass's visual arts and the ideological meaning of Zora Neale Hurston's canonicity. This band of scholars looks plentifully into the history / memory matrix without overtly rebutting the post-Reagan neo-individualist paradigm I've already described, suggesting that the argument is relatively moot. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

History and Memory in African-American Culture
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.