F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Daughters of the Dust Video Project

Alexis Harper

Dr. Kugler

Black Atlantic

Fall 2020


Daughters of the Dust presents a grab-bag of pre-migration, southern, and Gullah experiences through its attention to detail and scene-by-scene storytelling. The story, in short, details a Gullah family as they make the decision to stay or leave their island home of Igbo Landing. Throughout the film, I especially fixated on the use of language and creative choice to preserve the Gullah dialect, which is a mix of English and West African languages such as Igbo or Twi. Because the film concerned migration, I was interested in the movement of language and how words transform from their roots and follow migratory patterns. Although I have no family originating in South Carolina or Georgia, I have encountered some of the terms from my parents (who are from Indiana) and am familiar with names such as Myown or Myeva from Black Californians - most likely having familial lineage leading to Texas or Louisiana if they followed typical migration patterns. This anecdotal information leads me to the sociolingustic study of people such as JR Rickford or Language Jones who have analyzed language that falls under the umbrella of African American Vernacular English (or AAVE). What I have noticed in my studies of linguistics from my masters program is that, with few exceptions, there is a dearth in the literature of AAVE concerning regional variation.

Using the film as a base, I believe it would be fruitful to engage in research that starts with pre-existing migration patterns from the Gulf coast to the North East, Deep South to Midwest, and Louisiana/Texas to California. From there, I believe it would be fruitful to trace linguistic variation at the time of migration and where words “dropped off” or transformed as they moved to their destination so to speak as well as their current manifestation. In our Week 2 readings, we were given the example of “Baldwin’s Paris” which illustrated the multiple locations Baldwin encountered in Paris. The Google Map type map highlighted each point and linked it to pop-up relevant to the corresponding Baldwin passages. I found this concept interesting in creating a type of linguistic map that traced the migratory trails of particular families, or known migration trails in general. For the sake of interaction and accessibility, I am interested in integrating a video project that took speaking examples of people from certain lines such as Virginia to Massachusetts or Mississippi to Illinois and cataloged their speaking verbatim. This could be paired with linguistic and sociolinguistic explanations as understood by scholars such as John Rickford. Therefore, the scholarly explanation would be matched with natural speech while creating a visual way to understand movement and cultural archiving.

This page has paths: