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Jim Haskins and the Challenges of Preserving Black Culture

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Abstract:

As the author of two-hundred books, Jim Haskins used literature as a tool to preserve African-American culture. This attempt at preservation is visible in three of Haskins’ writings: The Cotton Club (1977); Queen of the Blues: A Biography of Dinah Washington (1987); and Voodoo and Hoodoo: The Craft as Revealed by Traditional Practitioners (1990) in addition to The Cotton Club screenplay. The rich culture of the Cotton Club, as expressed in Haskins’ book The Cotton Club, was not accurately or adequately portrayed by the producers of the Cotton Club film. The experiences and agendas of these producers resulted in a skewed interpretation of the historical and cultural value of Haskins’ book, as well as the potential historical and cultural value of their film. Similarly, in an attempt to determine cultural value, publishers’ critique of the relevancy and “appropriateness” of famed blues singer Dinah Washington prevented Haskins from publishing her biography, Queen of the Blues, for an entire decade. In yet another misinterpretation of culture, the St. Tammany Parish School Board’s forced removal of Haskins’ Voodoo and Hoodoo resulted in limiting Black youths’ access to a cultural point of reference. This paper explores Haskins’ numerous attempts to preserve culture through his writings, and how these attempts were directly challenged by several institutions and gatekeepers.
In order to better understand Jim Haskins’ struggles in preserving culture, correspondence, legal documents, notes and proposals referencing his works were analyzed, drawn from a collection of Haskins’ public papers and documents. Newspaper, magazine, and journal articles, dissertations, and Haskins’ writings, were also utilized to develop and support the paper’s argument.
This paper ultimately implies that materials that successfully preserve Black culture, like the writings of Jim Haskins, provide a common theme or point of commonality with which Blacks can identify. If these materials remain difficult to attain as a result of institutional challenges to authors, or marginalization of an entire culture, Blacks face a dilemma in adequately identifying with their culture. Thus, it is the joint responsibility of professionals such as librarians and institutions like local libraries, universities, and national repositories to ensure that literature which preserves Black culture is distributed, circulated, and made accessible on a greater scale. Despite challenges, Haskins provided a significant amount of material from which to ensure this goal of preservation is fully realized.
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Association:
Name: 96th Annual Convention
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http://www.asalh.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521688_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Thorpe, Angela. "Jim Haskins and the Challenges of Preserving Black Culture" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521688_index.html>

APA Citation:

Thorpe, A. "Jim Haskins and the Challenges of Preserving Black Culture" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 96th Annual Convention, TBA, Richmond, VA <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p521688_index.html

Publication Type: Invited Paper
Abstract: As the author of two-hundred books, Jim Haskins used literature as a tool to preserve African-American culture. This attempt at preservation is visible in three of Haskins’ writings: The Cotton Club (1977); Queen of the Blues: A Biography of Dinah Washington (1987); and Voodoo and Hoodoo: The Craft as Revealed by Traditional Practitioners (1990) in addition to The Cotton Club screenplay. The rich culture of the Cotton Club, as expressed in Haskins’ book The Cotton Club, was not accurately or adequately portrayed by the producers of the Cotton Club film. The experiences and agendas of these producers resulted in a skewed interpretation of the historical and cultural value of Haskins’ book, as well as the potential historical and cultural value of their film. Similarly, in an attempt to determine cultural value, publishers’ critique of the relevancy and “appropriateness” of famed blues singer Dinah Washington prevented Haskins from publishing her biography, Queen of the Blues, for an entire decade. In yet another misinterpretation of culture, the St. Tammany Parish School Board’s forced removal of Haskins’ Voodoo and Hoodoo resulted in limiting Black youths’ access to a cultural point of reference. This paper explores Haskins’ numerous attempts to preserve culture through his writings, and how these attempts were directly challenged by several institutions and gatekeepers.
In order to better understand Jim Haskins’ struggles in preserving culture, correspondence, legal documents, notes and proposals referencing his works were analyzed, drawn from a collection of Haskins’ public papers and documents. Newspaper, magazine, and journal articles, dissertations, and Haskins’ writings, were also utilized to develop and support the paper’s argument.
This paper ultimately implies that materials that successfully preserve Black culture, like the writings of Jim Haskins, provide a common theme or point of commonality with which Blacks can identify. If these materials remain difficult to attain as a result of institutional challenges to authors, or marginalization of an entire culture, Blacks face a dilemma in adequately identifying with their culture. Thus, it is the joint responsibility of professionals such as librarians and institutions like local libraries, universities, and national repositories to ensure that literature which preserves Black culture is distributed, circulated, and made accessible on a greater scale. Despite challenges, Haskins provided a significant amount of material from which to ensure this goal of preservation is fully realized.


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