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Capturing the SouthImagining America's Most Documented Region$
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Scott L. Matthews

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469646459

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469646459.001.0001

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Race, Region, and Resistance

Race, Region, and Resistance

Howard Odum’s Community and Folk Background Studies, 1905–1928

(p.18) Chapter One Race, Region, and Resistance
Capturing the South

Scott L. Matthews

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter examines the documentary work of UNC sociologist Howard Odum. It demonstrates how Odum harnessed new fieldwork methodologies and technologies such as the graphophone and phonophotography, along with the modern research university, to document black culture in the South. Odum called the products of his documentary fieldwork, community and folk background studies. His early studies from the 1900s grew out of graduate work with the twentieth century’s premier social scientists, G. Stanley Hall and Franklin Giddings. During this time, Odum’s documentary work fit into a broader Progressive reform impulse that sought solve the era’s race problems in the name of enlightened white supremacy. The second half of the chapter examines Odum’s folk song fieldwork and studies from the 1920s, including his books, The Negro and His Songs and Negro Workaday Songs. It also highlights his collaboration with psychologist Milton Metfessel and their use of film and photography to document black folk music. This chapter also emphasizes the resistance Odum faced from some black people during his fieldwork and how black writers like W.E.B. Du Bois and Zora Neale Hurston challenged his images of black southerners.

Keywords:   Howard Odum, graphophone, phonophotography, black culture, sociologist, G. Stanley Hall, W.E.B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, Milton Metfessel, resistance

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