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This summer I worked on a project entitled “Accentuate the Positive: Jazz, Writing, and the Politics of Racial Conduct” with Dr. Beavers as part of the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentorship program (PURM). My primary responsibility was to read through newspapers from the turn of the 20th century in search of articles that expressed an opinion on the behavior of African Americans and/or jazz musicians. After learning about the resources available to me at UPenn with the help of Ancil George, research librarian, I used internet databases of newspapers and Penn’s microfilm collection to do my research. This project allowed me to get very familiar with these sources. and allowed me to learn how to deal with large amounts of information, as I dealt with several years’ worth of multiple newspapers.
I also had the opportunity to go to Washington D.C. for three days in order to become familiar with and use the resources at the Library of Congress. In the Performing Arts Reading Room, I went through jazz periodicals like Music and Rhythm, in which I found many suitable articles and pictures. It was amazing to be able to handle magazines over fifty years old and come to terms with the slang of the time period. In case you need to know, a “chirpie” is a female singer accompanying a jazz band. Reading these sources gave me a better sense of the culture of jazz.
Another facet of my experience was becoming familiar with African American literature. Over the summer I read many critical pieces from this body of work, including works like The Cheyneysville Incident by David Bradley and The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois. I enjoyed reading these works, and at the end of the summer I used my newfound familiarity in order to interpret pieces of African American literature from the last ten years in the context of earlier literature.
This past summer was definitely well spent. I feel that I made a positive contribution to Dr. Beavers’ project while he taught me how to conduct research on my own. I now have ideas for my own research, and I intend to pursue these interests this fall.