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Historically BlackImagining Community in a Black Historic District$
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Mieka Brand Polanco

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780814762882

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814762882.001.0001

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Thick Histories

Thick Histories

Producing Community through Historical Narratives

(p.73) 3 Thick Histories
Historically Black

Mieka Brand Polanco

NYU Press

This chapter discusses “community” as it is produced and experienced by Union's descendant residents. It considers some of the histories these residents narrate in formal interview settings, alongside those that are shared during informal conversations. In informal settings, residents narrate histories as fragments embedded in conversation about the present and repeated in different contexts. Each repetition inevitably varies slightly, highlighting particular aspects of a person or event depending on the context in which the story is told. Unlike the rigid narratives told during formal settings, this kind of historical transmission produces “thick” histories—three-dimensional and dynamic narratives that are continually produced, that are patently conscious of their relationship to the present, and that work to affirm a shared sense of community among the speakers. Ultimately, the chapter aims to highlight how histories operate in descendant residents' own lives, allowing their meanings to emerge publicly.

Keywords:   community, descendant residents, community history, narratives, informal conversations, historical transmission

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