Last March, Associate Professor Sharony Green signed a book contract with Routledge for Teaching Public History in Alabama: About (Public) Face, a work that intends to build upon her students’ responses to her efforts to help them reenvision our shared historical spaces, as well explore the ways in which Green was unintentionally and intentionally taught history using the public spaces around her. In the work, Green will reflect upon how that push for a more immersive historical experience not only spurred her students’ creativity but how their creativity lead her to modify her overall approach to teaching, too.
The project took root last summer, while Green was teaching in London as part of the Alabama at Oxford Program. An editor for Taylor & Francis, Routledge’s parent company, noticed her social media posts about the experience and began a discussion regarding the possibility of such a work.
Kathryn Haynes, a Fall 2022 UA graduate in English and American Studies, was a student in Green’s class that summer, where she was assigned Toni Morrison’s short story, “Recitatif,” a work that probes the complexities of race and class in American society. Instead of requiring a traditional, essay-style assessment, Green empowered students to develop their own evaluative assessments, a process some professors, including Green, call the “unessay.” Haynes, an accomplished musician and songwriter in her own right, journeyed to the chapel at Oxford’s Worcester College to record “Kathryn’s Song,” which recasts the “Recitatif” story in musical form.
Students in previous classes set the Great Migration story to music, developing an original beat mix that emphasizes many of the themes from that movement. This semester, Green’s students are creating interpretive panels centered on the theme “Of Canals, AfroFuturism & Empire” for Slow Art Day 2023, an international event involving museums and gallerie. The installation features a digital mash up of the first sci-fi motion picture, Metropolis (1927), along with recast student haikus in tribute to our shared past and future based on the works of science-fiction author Octavia Butler. The exhibit will be on display at the Gorgas House Museum on April 14 and online the follow day.
A digital overview of Green’s many public-facing projects can be found here.