Welcome to REACTIVATING MEMORY A Shuffle Along and the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial resource page.
One hundred years ago, the dazzling all-Black Broadway musical Shuffle Along ushered in the Jazz Age with a syncopated score and tap dancing chorus. One week later, white residents of Tulsa, Oklahoma, murdered hundreds of Black residents and burned down the vibrant Black neighborhood of Greenwood.
Looking back at these seemingly disparate events, what can we learn about Black success, racial capitalism, and white violence? What can we learn about how journalists and historians document, neglect, or erase certain events? And, how can we now redress the past by “REACTIVATING MEMORY”?
REACTIVATING MEMORY Symposium
On September 10, a remarkable group of artists, journalists, and scholars convened via Zoom for a free and accessible day marking the centennial of these two neglected but pivotal events in U.S. history. The “REACTIVATING MEMORY” virtual symposium traced the legacies of both Shuffle Along and the Tulsa Race Massacre in the contemporary United States, examining gaps and silences in historical archives and the work currently being done to fill those gaps.
The symposium included three panel discussions and performances by tap dancers, singers, and musicians examining how we “reactivate” cultural memory through performance, journalism, scholarly research, and programs such as HBO’s Watchmen.
As an exciting prelude to the symposium, members of the production team and cast of the 2016 meta-musical Shuffle Along gathered for a virtual reunion on the night of September 9th.
Classroom Learning Modules
With these resource pages, we will explore the core questions that the symposium seeks to address: Looking back at these seemingly disparate events, what can we learn about Black success, racial capitalism, and white violence? What can we learn about how journalists and historians document, neglect, or erase certain events? And, how can we now redress the past by “reactivating memory”?
Find the module that fits with your class best or explore the others. Glance at the learning goals, then go through the rest of the materials in the module, and respond to some of the prompt questions in your course’s discussion group.
The Princeton University Library collections may also serve as additional teaching resources. Learn more about accessing Princeton University Library resources »
Through conversations with artists, journalists, and scholars, the Princeton University Humanities Council podcast “If Everybody Knew” highlights innovative research, new ideas, and untold stories that could change the world. Or at least the way you look at things. The first episode, “…about the black musical that disappeared forever, twice,” focuses on Shuffle Along, the first major all-Black Broadway musical, that was, in the words of Langston Hughes, the soundtrack that launched the Harlem Renaissance. Days after the show’s successful debut, a group of armed white men terrorized Tulsa, Oklahoma. So why do so many of us know about the tragedy, but most of us have never heard of the triumph? Dexter speaks with author Caseen Gaines, actor Amber Iman, and Princeton lecturer Catherine M. Young to learn more. This episode was inspired by a Humanities Council Magic Project. Find the podcast on iTunes | Find the podcast on Spotify
Princeton’s Department of African American Studies (AAS) also produced a podcast (season 2, episode 5) about Reactivating Memory. The AAS podcast features Princeton Arts Fellow Michael J. Love, dramaturg/researcher A.J. Muhammad and Princeton scholar Catherine M. Young in discussion about how they balance performance, scholarship, and activism, and together they dig into the history of Shuffle Along and the legacy of Black theatrical practice.