MARBL Spring 2014 : Page 9

v oi c e s fr o m t he cl a s sr o o m “If You Build It . . . ” MARBL’s African Americans in Sports Collection as the Impetus for New Research and Fearless Scholarship Like any new endeavor that can be considered pathbreak-ing or innovative, setbacks and even failure are common-place. The ongoing development of the African Americans in Sports Collection in MARBL has been filled with a num-ber of challenges, opportunities, and pleasant surprises. Recognizing the complexities surrounding the identifica-tion of important collections, allocating funds to support their acquisition, and developing programming to promote their availability to researchers have provided important lessons worth remembering and sharing. Still fairly new to the Emory University community, this collecting focus on African Americans in Sports is a viable area for scholarly research and inquiry that has found its footing in MARBL, in partnership with the Department of African American Studies. More important, it has the potential to expand its presence across campus into other divisions, departments, and programs. With the support of MARBL Director Rosemary Magee, we have been able to establish the Race and Sports in American Culture Series (RASACS) as an important platform for contributing to far-reaching conversations about race in American history and culture. Through public programming, RASACS brings together Emory faculty, students, and staff; members of the larger Atlanta community; and authorities—writers, sports executives, and former professional athletes—whose knowledge and testimony relate to the intersections of African American history and thereby expand our collective knowledge and understanding of sports beyond their more popular, often superficial representations. As an added incentive for Emory students, we have devel-oped a graduate colloquium through the Laney Graduate School that is directly tied to RASACS. The Thinking about Sports and Making Connections across Disciplines collo-quium—part lecture, part workshop and discussion—pro-vides the space to examine the complexities inherent in discussions about race and sports in American culture. The two of us are team-teaching this two-credit, yearlong col-loquium with Emory Professor Carol Anderson. Designed to promote an engaging interdisciplinary envi-ronment for exploring major issues and challenges related to American sports history and race relations, the primary goal of this course is to foster an open and productive dia-logue. Given the considerable amount of attention paid to sports in disciplines such as art, economics, sociology, Emory baseball team members Warren Kember, Kyle Arbuckle, and Brett William Lake [left to right] discuss plans for an upcoming exhibit with Pellom McDaniels III. Photo credit: Elijah Ajayi psychology, philosophy, law, history, and medicine, this course opens up opportunities for graduate students to explore questions about the impact of sports on society as a whole. Even more significant, the colloquium provides space for students to examine the impact of sports on their own particular research. page 9 spring 2014 MARBL

“If You Build It . . .” MARBL’s African Americans In Sports Collection As The Impetus For New Research And Fearless Scholarship

Pellom McDaniels III And Dana White

Like any new endeavor that can be considered pathbreaking or innovative, setbacks and even failure are commonplace. The ongoing development of the African Americans in Sports Collection in MARBL has been filled with a number of challenges, opportunities, and pleasant surprises. Recognizing the complexities surrounding the identification of important collections, allocating funds to support their acquisition, and developing programming to promote their availability to researchers have provided important lessons worth remembering and sharing.

Still fairly new to the Emory University community, this collecting focus on African Americans in Sports is a viable area for scholarly research and inquiry that has found its footing in MARBL, in partnership with the Department of African American Studies. More important, it has the potential to expand its presence across campus into other divisions, departments, and programs. With the support of MARBL Director Rosemary Magee, we have been able to establish the Race and Sports in American Culture Series (RASACS) as an important platform for contributing to farreaching conversations about race in American history and culture. Through public programming, RASACS brings together Emory faculty, students, and staff; members of the larger Atlanta community; and authorities—writers, sports executives, and former professional athletes—whose knowledge and testimony relate to the intersections of African American history and thereby expand our collective knowledge and understanding of sports beyond their more popular, often superficial representations.

As an added incentive for Emory students, we have developed a graduate colloquium through the Laney Graduate School that is directly tied to RASACS. The Thinking about Sports and Making Connections across Disciplines colloquium— part lecture, part workshop and discussion—provides the space to examine the complexities inherent in discussions about race and sports in American culture. The two of us are team-teaching this two-credit, yearlong colloquium with Emory Professor Carol Anderson.

Designed to promote an engaging interdisciplinary environment for exploring major issues and challenges related to American sports history and race relations, the primary goal of this course is to foster an open and productive dialogue. Given the considerable amount of attention paid to sports in disciplines such as art, economics, sociology, psychology, philosophy, law, history, and medicine, this course opens up opportunities for graduate students to explore questions about the impact of sports on society as a whole. Even more significant, the colloquium provides space for students to examine the impact of sports on their own particular research.

The new collecting focus on African American in Sports seems tailormade for the college’s decision in its Quality Enhancement Plan to encourage student focus on the “nature of evidence.” Our collections pose evidentiary problems, raise questions, call for the teasing out of meaning, and pose the challenge of weaving from them seamless narratives.

For undergraduates, many of whom are new to the rigors of research, the use of MARBL’s special collections can be intimidating, if not altogether frightening. Recent acquisitions of materials related to Hank Aaron’s breaking of Babe Ruth’s homerun record, the development of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association—the files of the organization governing sports in historically black colleges and universities—as well as letters related to Major League Baseball’s efforts to secure housing for its African American players during the 1960s are certain to command attention, especially for student-athletes. The evidence of things both seen and unseen, including the faint traces of events long past and those fading from memory, can be compelling to students encouraged to weave a narrative from the materials available into a coherent account, one grounded in facts.

Through MARBL’s sports-related materials, each discipline or field of inquiry has the potential to accelerate the interest of students in research methodologies, the analysis of evidence, and the ability to synthesize information in support of their arguments. As we train our students to use reference tools to gain access to the information found in manuscript materials, organizational records, or the thousands of rare volumes housed in MARBL, they become ever-more confident— make that fearless!—prepared to demonstrate that our pioneering efforts are paying off.

Read the full article at http://www.editionduo.com/article/%E2%80%9CIf+You+Build+It+.+.+.%E2%80%9D+MARBL%E2%80%99s+African+Americans+In+Sports+Collection+As+The+Impetus+For+New+Research+And+Fearless+Scholarship/1673483/203191/article.html.

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