It’s no secret that the Academy Awards have historically been less than diverse. Last year, frustrations overflowed after all 20 of the nominees for Best Acting awards were white for the second year in a row. Widespread dissatisfaction with this state of affairs manifested online in the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite, coined by activist April Reign.
In response to this criticism, Reign led the Academy in taking some steps to diversify itself. In 2016, the Academy invited 683 new members to its highly secretive roster of approximately 6,000. Of this new class, nearly half were women and people of color: 46% women and 41% POC. (Compare that to the previous year’s class, which was 25% women and 8% POC.) While the Academy remains disproportionately white and male, it has committed to doubling the number of women and minorities in its roster by 2020.
Shockingly, it would almost seem that increasing the number women and people of color in the Academy leads to having more women and people of color nominated in the Academy Awards! Although there is a long way to go before parity is achieved, this year’s Oscars are some of the most diverse yet, and have marked a historic level of achievement for Black performers, directors, writers, and filmmakers. Some of the history-making nominations at the 2017 Oscars include:
Last week, in recognition of Black History Month, UNC’s own Rare Book Collectionblogged about two of their recent acquisitions: Christina Moody’s Tiny Spark: “Imagine a sixteen-year old African-American girl publishing a book of poetry in 1910: some of it in dialect, some of it provocatively proud of her race, grappling with serious issues – like how a Negro can pledge allegiance to the American flag – as well as the problems of ‘Chillun and Men.'”
AND Claude McKay’s Long Way From Home: “The volume is the autobiography of the Jamaica-born writer McKay in the first edition, published in New York in 1937. Its original cloth cover with foil label is quite worn, but open up, and there’s a surprise, a wonderful page of inscriptions, one from the author to Naomi Davis, the alias of Frances Daniels.”
For more on these great finds, be sure to click on the links above for the full blog posts!
As always, we also encourage you to make use of the Stone Center Library’s Guide to the Web, which includes a section of online resources covering African American military history. Plus, did you know the itself Guide is searchable? In addition to perusing the Guide by topic, the “Search the Guide” bar allows for keyword searching to pull sites listed in the guide from across sections. For example, searching for “Tuskegee” yields this list of websites contained within the Guide: http://bit.ly/wnbZGo. Happy searching!
The 84th annual Academy Awards will take place this Sunday and among this year’s contenders is The Help, which has been nominated for four awards, including nods for Viola Davis (Best Actress) and Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting Actress). This film takes place in 1960s Mississippi and chronicles the intersecting lives of white women and their African-American maids against the backdrop of major social upheaval nationwide. Of course, before it was an Oscar-nominated film, The Help was a best-selling book, as reviewed by Stone Center Librarian Shauna Collier in a previous SCL blog post, and available here at the Library.
Interested in learning more about African Americans and the film industry? Here, in no particular order, are ten titles to get you started:
First performed publicly in February of 1900, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” was composed by brothers James Weldon (text) and J. Rosamand Johnson (music). Originally conceived as a poem to commemorate Lincoln’s birthday, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” as a musical work has become a powerful symbol of the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Termed “the Black National Anthem” by some, this song also inspired a short-lived sculpture (“The Harp”) commissioned for the 1939 New York World’s Fair and created by Augusta Savage Jefferson. Given its cultural significance, and in honor of Black History Month, here at the Library we thought we would briefly spotlight the poet, educator, and activist behind the poem: James Weldon Johnson.
James Weldon Johnson (1831-1938) was born in Jacksonville, FL and went on to attend Atlanta University. The son of a schoolteacher, he returned to his alma mater Stanton Elementary School as principal. Concurrently, he purused legal studies and became the first African-American to pass the bar exam in the state of Florida. In addition to his significant contribution to the fields of education and law, Johnson was a prolific writer of poems, song texts, and fiction such as The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Active in the political arena as well, in 1920 he was appointed executive secretary of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), which ultimately adopted “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as its official song.
For a sampling James Weldon Johnson’s poetry available here at the Library, we recommend checking out:
Today marks the anniversary of the start of the Greensboro sit-ins in 1960 (and we encourage you to take a look at last year’s blog post about the history of the movement here).
Today also marks the start of Black History Month 2012, which was founded by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). This year’s theme is “Black Women in American Culture and History” and the ASALH has kindly prepared a summary of this topic which is available here.
Here at the Stone Center Library, we thought we’d jump-start this month with a little-known gem in our collection: The Curse of Caste,or, the Slave Bride: a rediscovered African American novel, by Julia C. Collins
Considered “the first novel by an African American woman,” it takes place in antebellum Louisiana and Connecticut “and focuses on the lives of a beautiful mixed-race mother and daughter whose opportunities for fulfillment through love and marriage are threatened by slavery and caste prejudice.”
Take a look at the full summary here, or come by the library and check it out!