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Controversy!

The appearance of the movie version of The Help has stirred up the discussion of both book and film.

Here are some links to articles and other resources about The Help (the book and the film) from Prof. Cristina Accomando of HSU:

Open Statement to Fans of The Help from the Association of Black Women Historians (includes a suggested reading list):
http://www.abwh.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2:open-statement-the-help&catid=1:latest-news

 

More details about one of the recommended readings:

http://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2011/08/like-one-of-the-family.html?cid=6a00e54ed2b7aa8833014e8ac78aa3970d

 

NY Times op-ed piece about The Help from Patricia Turner (who is one of the scholars in the documentary Ethnic Notions):

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/29/opinion/dangerous-white-stereotypes.html?ref=opinion
NYT article by Nelson George (which addresses the larger issue of Hollywood films on Black struggle):

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/movies/black-and-white-struggle-through-hollywoods-rosy-glow.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all

 

Tulane professor Melissa Harris-Perry commenting on the film on msnbc:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/44098555#44098555
http://feministing.com/2011/08/11/professor-melissa-harris-perry-calls-the-help-movie-ahistorical-and-deeply-troubling/

 

Jennifer Williams on the Ms. Blog:
http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/08/10/why-im-not-looking-forward-to-the-help/

 

Here’s an engaging piece by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan on The Feminist Wire: “Second (and Third, and Fourth…) Helpings: A Big Black Woman’s Thoughts on The Help

http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/19/second-and-third-and-fourth%E2%80%A6-helpings-a-big-black-woman%E2%80%99s-thoughts-on-the-help/
The Feminist Wire has several other pieces posted on The Help, including one by Duchess Harris:

 

http://www.thefeministwire.com/2011/08/12/kathryn-stockett-is-not-my-sister-and-i-am-not-her-help/

 

From Alice Walker’s website:

http://alicewalkersgarden.com/2011/09/the-help/

 

A piece in the Ithaca post reporting on what bell hooks said about The Help and other popular contemporary novels:

http://theithacapost.com/2010/10/11/start-where-you-are/

Here’s an interesting radio conversation on NPR with Karla Holloway:
http://www.npr.org/2011/02/24/134031233/Former-Maid-Sues-Author-For-False-Portrayal

Whatever we think of the book, the film, or the incredible popularity of both, as educators I hope we can seize the opportunity to offer some context and some useful lenses.  A lot of us show the Marlon Riggs documentary Ethnic Notions, and it has useful analysis of the Mammy stereotype.  There are many other resources that don’t directly address The Help but can offer a framework for discussing the issues that it raises.

The Film Opens!

The Help has been made into a movie with an A-list cast.  Unfortunately it is not showing in Arcata, but is running at Mill Creek Cinema and the Broadway Cinema.

Stockett Visit?

The powers that be at CR and HSU are trying to bring the author of The Help to campus in the Spring, 2012 semester. Stay tuned for developments!

HSU Library Videos on Civil Rights, Slavery and Women

These are suggestions for related viewing from Kumi Watanabe-Schock who manages the HSU Library video collection.

Titles available from HSU Library include:

Africans in America  (VIDEO 8010)

A four part series portraying the struggles of the African people in America, from their arrival in the 1600s to the last days before the Civil War. The first episode, Terrible transformation, examines the origins of one of the largest forced human migrations in recorded history. After the arrival of the first Africans in Virginia in 1619, the British colonies laid the groundwork for a system of racial slavery which generated profits that ensured the colonies’ growth and survival. In the second episode, Revolution, while the American colonies challenge Britain for independence, American slavery is challenged from within as men and women fight to define what America will be. When the War of Independence is won, black people, both enslaved and free, seize on the language of freedom even while the new nation’s Constitution codifies slavery and oppression as a national way of life. In the third episode, Brotherly love, during the first 50 years of the new nation, freedmen and fugitive slaves in Philadelphia push the country to live up to the promises made in its Constitution. But with the invention of the cotton gin, slavery expands into America’s western frontier, and a revolution in Haiti inspires slave rebellions throughout the souther United States. In the fourth and final episode, as the nation expands westward slavery becomes the most divisive issue in American life. Abolitionists struggle to bring the institution down and the nation is tested as never before. When tensions over slavery erupt into violence, Americans are forced to consider how long the country can continue as a democracy built on the profits of bondage.

 

Eyes on the Prize:  America’s Civil Rights Movement (VIDEO 8289)

Awakenings (1954-1956) : The early history of the Civil rights movement in America, beginning with the bus boycott in Montgomery and the lynching of a 14-year-old boy in Mississippi. Includes documentary footage and contemporary interviews. Produced and directed by Judith Vecchione.  Fighting back (1957-1962) : Examines the law both as a tool for change and resistance to change, particularly as it relates to education. Covers the court cases of the late 1940′s that led to the 1954 Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education decision, the nine Black teenagers who integrated Little Rock’s Central High School in 1957, and James Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi. Produced and directed by Judith Vecchione.

 

Mighty Times: The Children’s March (VIDEO 6516)

This video contains film footage, re-stagings of some activities, and interviews with some of the protesters. In May of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. asked black people of Birmingham, Alabama to go to jail in the cause of racial equality. The adults were afraid to go to jail and so the school children marched and over 5000 of them were arrested. This lead to President Kennedy sponsoring the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the march on Washington.

 

An unlikely Friendship (VIDEO 7107)

About a surprising friendship between an embittered KKK leader (C.P. Ellis) and an outspoken Black woman activist (Ann Atwater), that developed when they were appointed to co-chair a community committee to resolve problems arising from a court-ordered school desgregation, and that changed race relations and shocked Durham’s residents.

The Life and Legend of Sojourner Truth (VIDEO 4507 VHS)

Traces the life and legend of the former slave who could neither read nor write, yet earned a reputation as one of the most articulate and outspoken antislavery and women’s rights activists in the United States. Includes interviews with authorities on the subject’s life: Calton Mabee, Nell Painter, Roseann Mandzink, Gerald Sorin and Paul Gaffney. Accompanied by archival footage, photographs and period music.

 

The American Experience:  Roots of Resistance (VIDEO 2482 VHS)

Chronicles the history of slavery in the United States and of the Underground Railroad, a network of escape routes black slaves took in the mid-1800′s to freedom. Their flight from the South was organized by other escaped slaves and their allies, including Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. The beginnings of violent resistance are seen in the 1831 slave insurrection led by Nat Turner. Includes interviews with descendents of slaves and slaveholders of Somerset House in North Carolina and of participants in the Southampton Insurrection in Virginia as well as narratives of escaped slaves, film of documented escape routes, readings, abolitionist and traditional music, and archival materials to offer a historically accurate view of the issues and events in the United States prior to the Civil War.

 

Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property (VIDEO 5043 VHS)

Evaluates the authenticity of the earliest source, “The Confessions of Nat Turner”, assembled by a white Virginia lawyer from jailhouse interviews. It then follows the controvery over the Nat Turner story played out through history. Alvin Poussaint and Ossie Davis recall how Nat Turner became a hero in the Black community. Religious scholar Vincent Harding and legal scholar Martha Minow reflect on America’s attitudes toward terrorism. One of the most bitter race battles of the 1960s is reexamined, when William Styron published his novel, The Confessions of Nat Turner.

 

4 Little Girls (VIDEO 5179 VHS)

The Birmingham Campaign was launched in 1963. Martin Luther King Jr. and other activists were soon jailed, but it was the participation of the children that advanced the momentum of the Birmingham movement. They marched alongside the adults and were taken to jail with them as well. Because the 16th St. Baptist Church was close to the downtown area, it was an ideal location to hold rallies and meetings. On Sunday morning, Sept. 15, 1963, dynamite planted by the Ku Klux Klan, exploded in the building. Under the fallen debris, the bodies of four girls were found. Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley died because of the color of their skin. Features archival film footage, home photographs, comments by surviving family members, and interviews with local and national figures of the time.

FUNDI: The Story of Ella Baker (VIDEO 5213 VHS)

Highlights Ella Baker’s work in U.S. civil rights movement of 1960s. Since Ms. Baker’s activism spanned over 50 years in the North and the South, the struggles of earlier decades are portrayed, giving a sense of the continuity of the fight for social change.

 

Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice (VIDEO 5321 VHS)

Chronicles the life of Ida B. Wells, an early Afro-American activist who protested lynchings, unfair treatment of Afro-American soldiers, and other examples of racism and injustice toward Afro-Americans around the turn of the century.

Stockett on YouTube

Kathryn Stockett is represented by numerous videos on YouTube.  Here are a few:

And many more.

There are also others addressing related topics, including

Enjoy!

Controversy!

The Help became a controversial book this spring.  A longtime family maid, Ablene Cooper, has complained that her story was used in the novel without her consent and the characterization is demeaning.  She filed a lawsuit against the author in February of 2011, with her employer’s support.  The complaint was widely reported, for example, in the New York Times and on ABC News.

New York Law School’s Program on Law & Journalism produces a blog,  Legal Is As She Spoke, which has commented on the legal issues of the case.

With so much national and international coverage, opinions are flying.  What is yours?

Take a Class

HSU and College of the Redwoods will each offer  Book of the Year classes in the fall.

Prof. Laurie Winter will offer a one-credit class at HSU this fall (Engl 480, # 41253, Founders Hall 235, with the first class to meet 6-6:50 on August 30 to organize sections.  There are no prerequisites and any member of the community may register and participate through Extended Education.  One low-cost approach is through the Over 60 program.  Contact Prof. Winter with any questions at laurie.winter@humboldt.edu.

Prof. Vinnie Peloso will teach the CR Book of the Year class tis fall, , LBR 99A.  For details contact Prof. Peloso at 476-4565.  The fall class will be in person, while the spring version will be online.

Find The Help

This exciting story is available in many formats.

Kathryn Stockett’s book can be checked out from the HSU Library.   If copies are all in circulation, you can recall one using the “Make a Request” link.  The HSU Bookstore offer copies for sale for those who want to own it.  In addition, the Arcata branch of the public library has several copies for loan.

The book is available as a Kindle ebook from Amazon.com and from Barnes & Noble as  a Nook Book for $9.99.

The HSU Library has ordered an audio version also for those who want to experience the flavor of the regional dialects.  This recording  has received critical praise, for example,

“Four peerless actors render an array of sharply defined black and white characters in the nascent years of the civil rights movement. They each handle a variety of Southern accents with aplomb and draw out the daily humiliation and pain the maids are subject to, as well as their abiding affection for their white charges. The actors handle the narration and dialogue so well that no character is ever stereotyped, the humor is always delightful, and the listener is led through the multilayered stories of maids and mistresses. The novel is a superb intertwining of personal and political history in Jackson, Miss., in the early 1960s, but this reading gives it a deeper and fuller power.” (Publishers Weekly)

Audible.com offers this recording for sale to individuals wanting to download it to their mobile device.

The Eureka branch of Humboldt County Library has three copies of the audiobook, as well.

August 12 will see the release of a major motion picture adaptation of the novel from Dreamworks.