Right now the way I am thinking is in terms of a set of discreet projects named after the focus of research and the available documents. Each has to do with questions I wish to pose to the sources. Most would focus on African American family life in a series of locations:
Rocky Grove, SC Project: Apparently, my great-great grandfather, the grandfather of my mother's grandfather was named Free Posey. He is named the head of the family in the 1880 Census, born about 1813, which would make him 67. His wife Matilda was born in 1830, making her about 50. There may have been another wife before her since Free Posey apparently had so many children, maybe 22, quite a few of them older than my great-grandfather Professor Benjamin Bunyon Posey.
Washington, D.C. Project: A branch of the Posey family settled in Washington D.C. Benjamin Bunyon Posey (my great-grandfather, MJ's father) lived with a branch of this family in order to pursue the education that prepared him to be a teacher and to start schools in Palatka, and other places in the South. I would like to track the fortunes of the Poseys in Washington D.C. after the Civil War, and the manner in which D.C. became the hub of Reconstruction and the first place in the country to see widespread efforts to educate the former slaves.
Hampton/Tuskegee Project. As part of this project, I would like to go to Tuskegee just to get a better understanding of the role of these two institutions in the development of the struggle of HBCUs for self-definition. Of course, there were many other schools--Spelman, Atlanta, Morehouse, Fisk and Lincoln--which were very different from Hampton and Tuskegree but I am interested in the geography and the landscape of such places since their patterns must have impacted all the rest, regardless of whether the pattern was followed. The idea of an educational system having to be formed under such prohibitive constraints as segregation and apartheid is deeply intriquing to me. I have no ancestral links there so far as I know, only that B.B Posey and all the other Posey probably admired Booker T. Washington's work there.
Palatka/Jacksonville, Florida Project--These two places are the starting points for a substantial portion of family history in the 20th century, in particular the Poseys, who lived in the little town of Palatka, which my grandmother MJ remembers and describes so well in my interviews with her, and Jacksonville, the place of the Binghams, the family into which B.B. Posey married. There were also other Poseys and Binghams who were not my direct ancestors. Both places had racial segregation and yet MJ seems either unaware of it or very reluctant to talk about any firsthand experience of it.
Atlantic City Project: In the summer, MJ took her children to Atlantic City where there was a thriving black resort community. They watched black movies all summer and luxuriated in the black section of the boardwalk and the beach. Their visits were always with Lottie Bell, a very close friend of my grandmother's and her son Junior, who was a life of the party type. I look to visit this place and learn all I can of this lovely community and what became of it.
the Bronx Project: A few members of our family, in particular my Mom and my sister and myself lived in the East Bronx for about six years in a building known as St. Mary's Projects, Mitchell Lama housing I believe. We also attended a Lutheran School in the Bronx on Williamsbridge Road. What became of this house and of this school?
the European Tours Project
the West Africa Project
the Brooklyn Project
the Englewood NJ Project
Also, there are some topics focused on institutions:
the Addiction Project--my Dad, my Uncle Andrew and my cousin Jimmy died of drug overdoses of heroine all in the 60s before any insight into the treatment of addictions had come. The family assumption has always been that racism killed them but with all this work on genes, I am beginning to wonder if there might not be some insight there. Afterall the death rate in the family has been truly astounding. It includes my paternal grandfather and my Aunt's deaths related to alcoholism.
the CCNY Project--Mother went to CCNY, Grandpa Bob briefly taught chemistry there, and Barbara, myself and my former husband attended their as undergrads. I now teach there and have done so for almost 20 years. Have been asked to supervise the writing of the formal history of the English Department, which should allow me to master the history of the school, some of which would be relevant to Soul Pictures. I am curious about the link between Max Bond, Keith and Mamie Clarke (who were responsible for the research which contributed to the defeat of the Separate But Equal decision), the Northside Center and New Lincoln where I went to school.
the New Lincoln School Project--both Barbara and I went to school here from 1963 through 1970. The impact on my life is incalculable. Also, my neice Faith went their briefly when they incorporated with Walden.
the Public Schools in New York Project--mother taught in the public schools of New York for 17 years while I was growing up in the 50s and 60s. Aunt Barbara also taught. MJ attended Wadleigh High School in the early 20s. Mom and Aunt Barbara went to P.S. 136, Stitt and Morris High School in the 30s and 40s. Uncle Andrew went to the same schools. Dad went to George Washington High School in the 40s. My sister Barbara taught in the public schools for a number of years. I, myself, never attended or taught in a public school. As such, I find them fascinating to consider. Most schools have rich histories which are largely neglected.
NAAFAD Project: National Association of Fashion and Accessories Designers
the Black Feminism Project
I am currently working with a chronology encompassing all relevant events in which the main women in my line have been engaged from roughly 1900 to 2000. Both of my grandmothers were born in 1903. Both grandfathers were born slightly earlier, which gives me a nice frame for the century, and the story their lives and the lives of their descendants can tell about the culture and civilization in which we participated. A major theme is the Great Migration and its outcomes.
A major focus of the project is to render most things in a visual form and to search for language that can further assist the images in characterizing the times for a book reading public. The blog form, as far as my concerned, is a means through which to endlessly explore possibilities for the book. This book will also be for me my first, most sincerely intend book with its own structure of self-sufficient narratives.