April 14, 2020
Online Learning: Vanderbilt's Alice Randall on The HistoryMakers: A National Treasure
Alice Randall
Professor of African American and Diaspora Studies & English
Vanderbilt University
Alice Randall is the author of novels The Wind Done Gone , Pushkin and the Queen of Spades , Rebel Yell , and Ada's Rules . As a Harvard undergraduate majoring in English she studied with Julia Child as well as Harry Levin , Alan Heimert , and Nathan Huggins . After graduation from Harvard University, Randall headed south to Music City where she founded Midsummer Music. She became the first black woman in history to write a number one country song. She has written with or published some of the greatest songwriters of the era including Steve Earle , Matraca Berg , Bobby Braddock , and Mark Sanders . Four novels later, the award winning songwriter with over twenty recorded songs to her credit is Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University and Faculty Head of Stambaugh House. Her core courses include courses on Country Lyric in American Culture, and Soul Food as text and in text. After twenty-four years, Randall has come to the conclusion motherhood is the most creative calling of all and health disparity is the dominant civil rights issue of the first quarter of the 21st century.
April 14, 2020

Dear Reader,
"Today’s times call for grit and grace. The HistoryMakers Digital Archive is rich in both. As we shelter-in-place, we are called upon to be innovative and resourceful: to take stock of what we have in our homes, then to use those resources in new ways to do the old jobs that still need doing-- but can no longer be done as before or where before. For over a decade, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive has been an invaluable tool in my classroom where I serve on the faculty as Vanderbilt University’s Writer-in-Residence and Professor appointed in the Department of African-American and Diaspora Studies." 
"As a sixty-year-old who was diagnosed eighteen months ago with breast cancer, I am sheltered in place in a 600 square foot apartment down by the riverside in Nashville. Since I am teaching my students (via Zoom), who are now scattered because of the Coronavirus pandemic across and beyond the borders of the United States, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive has become an invaluable resource."
Dean Michael Mason
University of Virginia
Alice Randall
Vanderbilt University
Professor Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham
Harvard University
"In February's annual The HistoryMakers Education Advisory Board meeting, which now seems long ago, I was invited, along with the extraordinary Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham of Harvard and the groundbreaking Michael Mason of the University of Virginia, to give remarks about my use of The HistoryMakers Digital Archive , a short excerpt from my remarks on my experience at Vanderbilt follow. I offer them as examples of how I have used the Digital Archive."
Three boys pose by a Detroit storefront, c.1930s
"I also find that the Digital Archive is even more powerful and important in these disrupted and difficult circumstances. To give but one example, Black Detroit is a course I am scheduled to teach in the fall. With access to this one archive, students would have the opportunity to explore deeply, widely, rigorously, independently, and freely the subject of Black Detroit in the Digital Archive." 
From My February 8, 2020 Remarks at The Higher Education Advisory Board meeting :

"Whether students engage in one or many HistoryMaker interviews, they are immediately called upon to create their own map through the material. The task falls on them to ask good questions, to explore and expand their understanding of what a good question might be. Other tasks include untangling the subject’s point of view from the questioner’s, and from their own; to discerning what, for them are the significant themes in the interviewee’s life. They also must determine where the reliability of the interviewee as well as what, if anything, is useful to them as a student on a particular subject or working within a particular discipline."
African-American Foodways :
The ten soul food superfoods: chicken, watermelon, okra, black eye peas, hot pepper, peanuts, red beans, fish, greens, and sweet potato
"My course African-American Foodways is divided into three parts. The first third of the course introduces students to the primary scholars and scholarship on African-American foodways from the 17 th century to the present; the second third to iconic African-American cookbooks of the 19 th , 20 th and 21 st centuries; and the last third of the course is focused on the ways knowledge of African-American foodways and African culinary grammar might positively impact the health of Black people in the 21 st century and how that knowledge might be disseminated. Since 2010, The HistoryMakers Digital Archive has enriched all three areas of inquiry."
"In 2012, the class created a digital feast on a free Wix website where they highlighted what they called 10 Soul Food Superfoods. The Digital Archive literally uses the voices of HistoryMakers to make the joy of eating one of the superfoods real and rooted. Once the 10 soulfood superfoods were identified, the class decided to work systematically across the archive seeking to identify, for example, every mention of fish or fishing— or every mention of peanuts. Soon questions and conclusions arose. For example, if the peanut is good enough for Maya Angelou, it is good enough for us. But they also asked about mentions of perch, oysters, swordfish, goobers, red snapper, trout and sardines. This resulted in a website that showed the “where, when, why” specific African-Americans encountered sweet potatoes, peppers, peanuts, watermelon, chicken, beans, fish, greens, black eye peas, and okra, they created meaningful and significant new foodways; and, hence now new foodways scholarship. This also showed how The HistoryMakers Digital Archive could be used in ways that might not have been anticipated in foodways scholarship. The HistoryMakers included in the virtual feast were: Kenneth Gamble , Noel Don Wycliff , Hon. Rev. Floyd Flake , John Watson , Maya Angelou , Dr. Gloria Jackson Bacon , Ted Radcliffe , Wilma Webb , and Serena Wilson ."
Recipes from Alice Randall's cookbook, Soul Food Love :
Chicken stew
Breakfast casserole
Nicoise salad
"The virtual feast website is currently being used in the training of Vanderbilt medical students who are working at the Shade Tree Clinic which services the uninsured poor, homeless, and undocumented people in Nashville. When you click on a superfood you get connected to a HistoryMaker. The site uses the star power of individual HistoryMakers—to make dismissed and forgotten foods, important." 

"In conclusion, I want to emphasize that we will return to better days. In those better days, I spoke of how The HistoryMakers Digital Archive allows students to focus on advancing their writing by removing the obligation to interview; allows them to focus on advancing their interview skills by giving them excellent interviews to model after; and I discussed ways in which Digital Archive can be used to connect the larger community to academic scholarship and make that scholarship relevant to others."
"And now this agile Digital Archive enters into a new era. It has the ability to connect separate and distant worlds: each to others, each to an emboldening history, and to the shared wisdom of Black people, of American people, who lived in times of dire need and extraordinary challenge, yet managed to work, innovate, and return to hope, over and over again . It is for the ability of The HistoryMakers Digital Archive to do this work that The HistoryMakers organization should be lauded as an essential national treasure." 
Julieanna Richardson
Founder & President, The HistoryMakers
" Julieanna Richardson did the nation an extraordinary service when she founded this archive. She essentially created an essential educational emergency and national disaster preparedness kit-- a powerful tool for continuing our educational efforts and uplifting our spirits in the most challenging of times."

Alice Randall
Professor of African American Diaspora Studies & English
Vanderbilt University
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