Talking White: An Anti-Oppression View Towards Transcribing Black Narrators

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"Talking White," is a three hour workshop (taught over two sessions) that explores useful concepts in the transcription of oral history to help us more accurately portray the voice of our narrators. The English language is inextricably linked to a history of colonialism and has been used in America to delegitimize the voices and agency of Black people (from forced illiteracy during slavery, to voter suppression during the Civil Rights Era, to even the halls of academia today). This workshop aims to change the way we think of the transcript as a record and the way we consider dialect and the importance of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) in particular to recording American history and culture. We will look at linguistics, language justice, literature, and much more as we attempt to discern how best to preserve the voices of Black narrators through the interview process and beyond.

Intended audience: The intended audience for this class includes oral historians, transcriptionists, journalists, documentarians, archivists and any other academics or professionals doing memory work or dealing with how best to translate the spoken word to written text.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this class, students will be able to:

  • Outline challenges of existing best practices for transcription
  • Identify priorities for creating a non-standard transcript
  • Analyze project planning techniques that can aid in interview preservation
  • Develop a broad understanding of the history linguistics and respectability politics
  • Propose a plan to balance best practices and standards for the field, available resources, client needs and narrator preferences

Instructor: Alissa Rae Funderburk

Alissa Rae Funderburk is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Oral Historian for the Margaret Walker Center at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi. In her position, she maintains an oral history archive dedicated to the preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of African American history and culture. Inspired by her work at the center, she has developed a workshop on the complexities of transcribing Black voices that she first presented for the OHMA Anti-Oppression Oral History Training Workshops last summer. She is a native New Yorker and holds an MA in Oral History as well as a BA in Anthropology from Columbia University.

Academic library: 4 year and graduate; Archives; Special Collections
Time: All live online classes are in Eastern time.