Harlem on My Mind: Abram Hill

Audio clips from oral history interviews contained in the Special Collection Research Center’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) oral histories collection were recently featured in the final installment of Harlem on My Mind, a segment of the Into America podcast with Trymaine Lee. In this final installment of Harlem on My Mind, Lee learns about the legacy of playwright Abram Hill, who used his work to center Black characters, Black audiences, and Black communities unapologetically.

Hill worked with the WPA’s Federal Theatre Project until the program ended in 1939. In 1940, Hill co-founded the American Negro Theater, also known as the ANT, which would become a launch pad for stars like Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. Hill’s name and legacy is not widely known today, and Lee devotes much of the podcast to sharing Hill’s voice and reflections.

Thanks to a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library & Information Resources (CLIR), SCRC recently digitized the WPA oral history collection audio and interview transcripts, featuring persons who were associated with various WPA projects in the 1930s, including the Federal Theatre Project, Federal Art Project, Federal Music Project, and Federal Writers Project. The digital project will be made available via a new website later this spring.

Edible Book Festival goes Virtual

Mason Libraries’ Edible Book Festival is going virtual this year! The Festival features creative food projects inspired by books and stories. Edible books can physically resemble books, or they can refer to an aspect of a story, or they can incorporate text. 

The Festival runs March 26 – April 1, 2021. Entry deadline is March 26 – anyone can participate. This year’s prize categories include “People’s Choice/Best in Show,” “Punniest,” and “Best Representation of a Book.” You can read more about the guidelines at https://infoguides.gmu.edu/edible. Contest winners will receive Barnes & Noble gift cards.

Virtual Edible Book Festival entries will be posted on infoguides.gmu.edu/edible on March 29 +30. View them – and then vote for your choice in each prize category on Selection Day, March 31. Anyone can vote!  Winners will be announced at Noon, April 1.

We can’t wait to see what you create!

Curbside pickup at the Arlington Campus

The Arlington Campus started a new curbside pickup pilot today. Participating campus partners include the Libraries, the bookstore, University Life, and the ID office.

During the spring semester, curbside pickup will be available Thursdays from 3:45 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will take place in front of Van Metre Hall.

Need your Mason ID? Picking up an order from the Bookstore? Picking up a face covering or information from University Life Arlington? Picking up your library books? Learn more here.

Summer Research Opportunities for Undergrads

The Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR) has posted the 2021 Summer Team Impact Project undergrad positions to Handshake. There are six great projects this year, including one led by faculty affiliated with the Center for Mason Legacies (read more here). Each project will take on 6-10 undergrad students for paid summer research positions. Students can find the opportunities by searching “Summer Team Impact Project” on Handshake.

CML Team awarded 2021 Summer Team Impact Grant for “Black Lives Next Door”

The Center for Mason Legacies (CML) is pleased to announce the receipt of a Summer Team Impact Grant for “Black Lives Next Door,” an interdisciplinary project and collaboration between faculty and students to explore the environs surrounding the early years of George Mason College and its transition to a university.

LaNitra Berger (senior director of fellowships in the Office of Undergraduate Education, instructor, and affiliated faculty of CML), Benedict Carton (associate professor of History and associate director of CML), and George Oberle (History Librarian, assistant professor, and director of CML) will lead the summer team of six undergraduate students and two graduate research assistants.

During the summer of 2020, a season of protest against police-involved killings of unarmed African Americans, the legal scholar Richard Rothstein wrote a New York Times op-ed, “Black Lives Next Door.” In this op-ed, he urged more scholarly studies of “comprehensive racial inequity…that allows abusive…practices to flourish” at the local level.

Rothstein’s call for new research prompted Berger, Carton, and Oberle to explore the racial inequities that shaped neighborhoods around the George Mason University campus in Fairfax. The faculty team also credits their participation in the pedagogical pursuits of President Washington’s Task Force on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) for informing their proposed project. Berger serves on the Curriculum & Pedagogy Committee, Carton on the Research Committee, and Oberle on the Campus & Community Engagement Committee of ARIE.

The team of selected undergraduates will examine the founding years of George Mason College and its associated history of dislodging particular homeowners and renters. They will be guided by two important questions: why and how did the College remove from its immediate vicinity Black communities established by Jim Crow-era residential covenants? What happened to the supplanted people and can their experiences of displacement by recovered and brought to light?

“One of the things that is important to me, and a vital aspect of the work of the Center for Mason Legacies, is uncovering hidden history, particularly the stories around us and involving our George Mason University community,” says Oberle. “I have been part of this community since 1994 in various capacities, as student, librarian, and instructor. This time of racial reckoning across our country – and locally – has encouraged me to examine some of my preconceived ideas about our university’s history. I’m excited for our students to be part of this examination, to have the opportunity to uncover lost stories through hands-on history explorations, and to learn more about their community through the questions they raise during our conversations and fieldwork this summer.”

The undergraduate student positions will be posted on Handshake, the university’s career database for students, in mid-February. Primary duties of undergraduate student researchers will include: conducting field research with teams of graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty; collecting, depositing, and providing metadata description of documentary evidence in an online digital archive system (Omeka); and collaborating to produce an online exhibit which synthesizes and analyzes the collected evidence to share stories about these communities. As conditions allow, student fieldwork may involve conducting oral history interviews and digitizing relevant real estate and suburban planning information sourced from archives, court houses, and libraries.