OHMA is proud to announce the 2016 winner of our first Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Thesis Prize:
The selection committee offered the following remarks about Benji’s thesis on Ralph Ellison and the Federal Writers’ Project:
Benji de la Piedra (2014) drew upon his studies in literature, sociology, and history to create an interdisciplinary thesis that is grounded in fiction and history. His work not only illuminates the work of Ellison to point out the limits of white liberalism, but suggests new ways to broaden the frame of oral history to enter conversations around identity that are salient in our times.
This thesis exemplifies the great potential of oral history to contribute to national and political dialogues about identity, much in the same way that Jeff Brodsky’s thesis did.
Benji will be presenting an interdisciplinary lecture on Tuesday, October 18 at 6:30 p.m. in 509 Knox Hall, co-sponsored by Columbia's Center for American Studies and the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability, where he is a fellow this fall.
This lecture will provide an introduction to the method, theory, and history of oral history, framing the Federal Writers' Project (Works Progress Administration, 1930s) as the movement's founding moment. It will then pivot to Ralph Ellison, who worked as an interviewer for the WPA before becoming a novelist. The talk will conclude with a discussion of how Ellison’s cultural theory of racial difference in American democracy is of great value to oral historians practicing in America today.
The Jeffrey H. Brodsky Oral History Thesis Prize is given to one student annually whose thesis makes an important contribution to knowledge and most exemplifies the rigor, creativity, and ethical integrity we teach our students. We are pleased to recognize Benji de la Piedra’s contributions to advancing the field of oral history and look forward to presenting the award in person at his lecture next month.
The learn more about Benji’s work, review the lecture event announcement, check out his alumni bio, and visit the featured projects page for “That Something Else” on Oral History Works, OHMA’s new multimedia student website. Benji’s writing has also recently been featured in the Oral History Review and Al Jazeera America. Congratulations!
Gallery caption: Benji de la Piedra going over an interview legal release with Jean Gordon, former member of the Little Rock School Board and Founder of the Arkansas chapter of Women's Action for New Directions
Image credit: Sebi Harrigan-Labarca.