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Dr. George White

Dr. George White audio

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I think probably like most people, I started out as a Wiki rejectionist. Largely because of my own personal fears around technology and new things, but also concerned as a historian with the accuracy of the information online, and kind of made a transition to being a skeptic having kind of pursued topics on Wikipedia and found them looking at the source material and thinking "Okay, this is not so bad." So I moved to the position that Margaret was in of saying, okay you can use this as a jumping off point, look at the sources at the end of the article and then you can move from there to write any research that you're doing. And I think now finally move to the position of someone who I think is willing to try, give this a shot, in large part because of pedagogical issues instead of just say, data issues or input issues and going to points that everyone has raised before around empowering students in giving them this sense of investment in what they're doing that I think is tremendously important. And also I guess being awakened to that in part because of my own biases. So this semester I'm teaching for the first time in my life, black women's class in our black studies curriculum. And so in examining the things around, for instance, the Civil Rights movement, that I've kinda taken for granted as a scholar from the perspective of gender, I realize how many blind spots I have. So I started back into Wikipedia and its like, "Okay, let me look at things that I just kind of take for granted."

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Activists were reviving it now, on the 50th anniversary of this. And so, the textbook that I'm using was something I read in law school, really liked, but hadn't really read again. So as we're going through the chapter that I assigned, it's like "wait a minute, this doesn't match up with what I think I know about this campaign." And so I went through the Wiki, read everything, and this is a great example of I think a gender blind spot, because the origins of the Poor Peoples Campaign are largely obscured and most people give credit to Martin Luther King for creating it, but it's actually the women in the National Welfare Rights organization who actually created the name, and at the same time in '67, '68 King was saying, we need to have a march. And they actually met with Dr. King, and as many men as particularly powerful men and ministers will do, will say, hey I've organized this Poor Peoples Campaign, I want you guys to get on board, and they're like, "well we organized it. We gave it the name. Do you know about public law", blah blah blah blah blah. And they're quoting him the legislation in Congress, and he's like, no. And "well what about, what's your reaction to this?", and they quote him another bill that's in Congress. And he has no idea. And eventually one of the women says to him, "well Dr. King, it would be better if you just say 'I don't know', then we can explain to you the legislation and we can all work together", and eventually he did. So he backed down, but it's amazing that this is not in here. So this would be a wonderful opportunity for students or scholars to edit this. Because I think there are these places where there are blind spots. And then using this was really helpful in a different class. Let's talk about Gloria Richardson, who was an activist in the 60s, still alive today, still very vibrant, still lives in New York, but was involved in one of the most controversial snick campaigns in the Civil Rights movement. In essence, as the leader of this SNCC campaign, she said to all the protesters, students and people in this community of Cambridge, Maryland, when it comes to protesting we're gonna be non violent because this is a SNCC campaign and we believe in non violence, but at night, if we're gonna be attacked, we're gonna fight back. And that's exactly what people did. And because of that SNCC and NAACP and other groups were really really worried about what was going to happen in Cambridge, Maryland. And she was able to get the demands of, that the people wanted, because she kind of moved in this way. What's significant about this entry and one of the reasons that I like it, is that in talking about Gloria, this entry is actually built on first person interviews on her. So I presented this to students, this is fantastic, you're probably not gonna find this in a lot of places, because a lot of scholars don't talk about her, don't know her, but the work of Barbara Ramsbe, the textbook I'm using is Paula Giddings. It's not in here but other works that actually were people went to interview her, this is a fantastic resource. So things like this have kind of changed my mind and I'd like to at least try to implement some type of Wiki project in my classes going forward to see how it could work. That brings up, I see it almost very similar to doing oral histories, and I've done that before in class and that seem to be really successful, but that was really for an audience of one so this would be out in public and again I wouldn't be surprised if much like Margaret's experience the students would take this very, very seriously because they know that everybody's gonna read what they either added or what they create. And so because of this experience I continued along this trajectory of trying to embrace it and get over my impulses to reject new things and new technology, so I find this really fascinating, in many ways just really just wanna be here to learn from what other people have done.