Submissions:2016/“Finding a New Soul”: Building Wikipedia and the History of the Harlem Renaissance Within the Community College System

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Anne Kingsley
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Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, CA
In 1925, Alain Locke, in his foreword to The New Negro, a foundational text ushering in the advent of the “New Negro Renaissance,” proclaimed that “Negro life is not only establishing new contacts and founding new centers, it is finding a new soul”. Douglas believed that this surge of African American culture would reconstruct a new spirit of knowledge work. And yet, 90 years later, the history of the Harlem Renaissance remains thinly represented on Wikipedia. While some canonical authors have substantial pages, the full cosmos of this global phenomenon of art, literature, culture, and education appears flat. As an attempt to both contribute to underrepresented histories as well as promote diverse editorial representation, I will discuss my experience bringing community college students to edit this important history. In particular, I want to highlight my students’ work using The Crisis Magazine a major post-reconstruction publication edited by W.E.B. DuBois and now accessible as an online archive--as a starting point to contribute entries. Pedagogically, I would like to present how designing effective Wikipedia curriculum that reaches first time editors from various racial, gendered, and economic backgrounds (1) demands institutional understanding of public education (2)thrives in cross-disciplinary structures (3) raises opportunities for access to information (4) empowers marginalized voices to reconstruct historical narratives outside of research universities. Moreover, seeing this curriculum flourish at the community college level reshapes my (and my students’) understanding of the Harlem Renaissance from a centralized uprising of arts and culture in the early 20th century to a more extensive revolution that placed histories of race into mainstream practices.

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