“What You See is What You Get…But That Ain’t What We Want: Decolonizing African American Protest and Identity Politics through Popular Culture.”

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Reed, Marquita Rickel
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Middle Tennessee State University
The way in which the public remembers Black Power, is often presented through the lens of a dominate historical narrative which separates it from the Black Freedom Struggle. It creates a dichotomy between the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement that need not exist This narrative erases the thoughts and ideas that the Black community had about Black Power and the place that Black Power holds within the Black Freedom Struggle. Focusing on the Black Freedom struggle this research will examine how African Americans have historically defined and redefined Blackness, through cultural productions centered on the Black Freedom Struggle and the Black community. Moreover, this project will explore how these forms of material culture can be used in public history and traditional history to create more authentic and complete historical narratives that are often forgotten. Public historians seek to engage broad audiences with public interpretation. Yet until public history professionals understand that they are working within a larger cultural environment that is grounded in the belief that African Americans—and other historically marginalized groups—can be ignored, they will struggle to create strategies and programs that engage those audiences. Within the practice, there is a lack of focus on the cultural production of marginalized groups, which erases these groups from historical and cultural narratives. Popular culture productions, film theory, and literature, television, and graphic novels, in other words, are valuable sources for public historians. They are potentially powerful when historians examine how they function as teaching tools and memory keepers when oppressive historical and cultural narratives are being created.