Black Atlantic Identity Research Project

Black Atlantic Linguistic Identity Research Project Proposal

Since the late 20th century, there has been a growing interest in the Gullah Geechee culture of Lowland Georgia and the South Carolina Coast. This particular area is remarkable because multiple historical factors as well as the semi-isolated status of the coastal region and islands has provided the Black ethnic groups in the region the opportunity to preserve certain African retentions not as observable in other parts of the United States. This is especially true in regards to language – the Gullah Geechee people speak a language variety that is similar to 18th century Igbo language and dialect. The Gullah Geechee region is unique, but the concept of African retentions is not unheard of across the diaspora in the U.S.

I believe that the scholarship around African linguistic retention in the Gullah Geechee area serves as a useful foundation of grounding to further study linguistic retention through the U.S., especially as it concerns the transfer of language across the Great Migration of the early 20th century.

My Primary Claim

My primary claim is that there are identifiable Black Atlantic identities that can be indexed through language. The reach of The Black Atlantic is long and can be traced through language. I place The Great Migration as an important period where the reach of the Black Atlantic can be observed through retentions and loss.

I am focusing on The Great Migration because I believe it serves as a significant epoch in which Black people affected – either retained or lost - what I am generally calling a Black Atlantic Linguistic Identity. To explore this idea, I creating a project with two parts. The first part is a tradition overview or lit review of Black Atlantic Linguistics. The second part is survey done through multiple forms of participation: surveys, interviews or video submissions. The results of these observations and anecdotes will then be mapped onto storymaps. The general questions to prime the interview will ask the participant to give a rough timeline of their family’s movement out of the Southern United States as well as their familiarity with certain phonology, nomenclature and words. The survey would give precise questions and be used for more precise data collection and the interviews and video submissions would give a storytelling aspect to the project. The ultimate purpose of this would be an interactive way to find vestiges of Black Atlantic identities as they moved through the 20th century geographically. How much of this identity was retained as it moved northwards compared to groups with stronger connections to or still residing in the American South?

This is a primarily qualitative project that employs story telling as well as visual data collection

Sample/Mockup/DoNotTake: Black Atlantic Linguistic Identity Survey
(This is a mock up of what the survey could take the form of)
Black Linguistic Identity Map
(For now I am using story maps, but I plan to create a more sophisticated map that allows for a timeline, plotting and better pop ups)


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