This article discusses an international exhibition that detailed the recent history of African Americans in Pittsburgh. Methodologically, the exhibition paired oral history excerpts with selected historic photographs to evoke a sense of Black life during the twentieth century. Thematically, showcasing the Black experience in Pittsburgh provided a chance to provoke among a wider public more nuanced understandings of the civil rights movement, an era particularly prone to problematic and superficial misreadings, but also to interject an African American perspective into the scholarship on deindustrializing cities, a literature which treats racism mostly in white-centric terms. This essay focuses on the choices made in reconciling these thematic and methodological dimensions when designing this exhibition.
Not as It Is Written: Blending Oral Histories and Historic Photographs in a Civil Rights Exhibition
Benjamin Houston is senior lecturer in US history at Newcastle University in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. He is author of The Nashville Way: Racial Etiquette and the Struggle for Southern Justice in a Southern City (2012), and former director of the Remembering African American Pittsburgh (RAP) oral history project at Carnegie Mellon University. This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, Impact Acceleration Account [Grant Ref: ES/M500513/1, Newcastle University].
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Benjamin Houston; Not as It Is Written: Blending Oral Histories and Historic Photographs in a Civil Rights Exhibition. The Public Historian 7 May 2020; 42 (2): 78–100. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2020.42.2.78
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