Browse Exhibits (2 total)

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Injustices in Publishing

The publishing world has a history of limiting the voices that do not reflect a white, male, straight, or middle-class point of view. Narratives told by people like Sanora Babb and James Baldwin are few and far between due to this reality.

Sanora Babb is not the first writer who comes to mind when reflecting on the Great Depression or Dust Bowl. The first figures who come to mind are authors like John Steinbeck, who wrote The Grapes of Wrath, and photographers like Dorothea Lange. As historians attempt to dig deeper and understand the period more, perspectives like Babb's are more important than ever. She was a woman who had experienced homelessness herself, as she fled Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl. What separates Babb from others is that she was not only documenting her surroundings, but she was one of the people whose story should be documented and a part of the historical record. 

James Baldwin's influence has recently returned into American culture, with film adaptations of his works including I Am Not Your Negro and If Beale Street Could Talk receiving commercial and critical success. Centering on the black experience in racially torn 1960s-1970s America, these books and films are the first works people think of when they remember Baldwin. Yet, despite its initial critical acclaim, Baldwin's second novel, Giovanni's Room, a story featuring a homosexual relationship between two white men in Paris, is often overlooked and forgotten. From Baldwin's initial efforts to publish it, white publishing companies thought it lacked what they had come to expect from Baldwin: narratives strictly regarding the "black experience."

Found in the "Sanora Babb Papers" and the "Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Reject Letters" collections at the Harry Ransom Center, Sanora Babb and James Baldwin's stories unearth the marginalization that both faced in navigating a publishing world not designed for them. 

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Photograph of Ernesto Villalongin

Mexican-American Identity in the Southwest

In the American Southwest, particularly in Texas, there is a strong sense of regional identity connected to Mexico and the border that divides the two. This is due to the large population that identifies with Mexican heritage, from individuals who emigrated in the 2000's to those whose ancestors emigrated in the 1800s. Today, that identity is condensed into the concept of being a "Mexican-American", in part defined by the journeys taken by their ancestors from Mexico to the US and often back again. The traversing of a "border", whether legal or conceptual, is often integral to identity formation and something we hope to explore through this exhibit.

In order to trace the identity of Mexican-Americans in the Southwestern United States, or "Borderlands", the exhibit will look at artifacts from a 19th century Spanish-language theatre troupe to photos of migrant farmers of the 1930s, to contemporary scripts continuing the legacy of the 20th century Chicano movement.

By Kira Azulay, Ashton Sauseda, Brennan Upchurch

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