OHA Annual Meeting: Spotlight on “The Sharecroppers’ Troubadour” Plenary Session

The Sharecroppers’ Troubadour: African American Songs and Oral Poetry as Oral History

In the Thursday plenary session at the OHA annual meeting, historian Michael Honey and music educator Pat Krueger will present a mix of oral history analysis, songs, and oral poetry performed by themselves and, through short digital presentations, by John Handcox (1904-1992). Deemed the “poet laureate” of the interracial Southern Tenant Farmers Union, Handcox was hailed by Pete Seeger as a “people’s songwriter,” influential in African-American and labor struggles from the 1930s onward. By singing songs such as “Roll the Union On” and “There Is Mean Things Happening in this Land,” Handcox became one of the most beloved folk singers of the prewar labor movement. Sharecroppers’ Troubadour links generations of struggle in the South through African American song and oral poetry traditions. This session will give new meaning to oral history as freedom songs and oral poetry.

Michael Honey is currently the Haley Professor of Humanities and American History at the University of Washington Tacoma. Honey’s new oral history-based work, Sharecroppers’ Troubadour: John L. Handcox, the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union, and the African American Song Tradition (Palgrave Macmillan Oral History Series, 2013) links generations of struggle in the South through African American song and oral poetry traditions. He has written five acclaimed books on labor and civil rights history, many grounded in oral history, including Black Workers Remember: An Oral History of Segregation, Unionism, and the Freedom Struggle. He has won numerous awards for his publications, and is also the recipient of the Weyerhaueser Foundation’s Martin Luther King Award for community leadership and service.

Michael Honey

Pat Krueger chairs the music education program at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA, and teaches courses in music education. She maintains an active commitment to urban and multicultural arts education, and her research focuses on socialization of beginning music teachers in public schooling. Dr. Krueger previously taught K-12 music in Wisconsin public schools. She earned her BME from the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, and her MM and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her publications include chapters in The Oxford Handbook of Qualitative Research in Music Education (Oxford, 2014), Great Beginnings for Music Teachers: Mentoring and Supporting New Teachers, and articles in Journal of Research in Music Education, Music Educator’s Journal, Update, Journal of Music Teacher Education, and Arts Education Policy Review.

Pat Krueger

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