This Scholars’ Lab Visiting Scholar presentation examines digital creations that feature performances of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Collectively comprising what I call an ephemeral archive, these works force us to contend with their transience and atemporality, and the refusal of the notion of “lost” Black histories, to arrive at a kind of truth (Toni Morrison). In this talk, I will consider what these performances, mashups, and metadata might reveal to us about Black memory and knowledge–and their potential to create new contexts for Black identity formation.
Sonya Donaldson is Associate Professor of English at New Jersey City University. She is currently developing her digital humanities project, Singing the Nation into Being: Anthems and the Politics of Black Performance. Donaldson is also completing a book manuscript, Irreconcilable Differences?: Memory, History, and the Echoes of Diaspora, which examines autobiographical narratives, music, and performances by Black writers and artists. She earned her Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Virginia, where her research focused on Afro-German autobiographical narratives. Her scholarly work has appeared in Callaloo, African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, and Women, Gender, and Families of Color.
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