BOUNDARY LIVING: BLACK AND WHITE STUDENTS AND ADULTS STUDY THEIR COMMUNITY THROUGH AN ETHNOGRAPHIC/ETHNOHISTORIC PERSPECTIVE

RAE ALEXANDER-MINTER, University of Pennsylvania

Abstract

This dissertation describes how ethnographic and ethnohistoric methodologies were used to fashion a course of study for students who lived, worked, and attended school in the two-centuries-old black community in the East Frankford section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The students, both black and white, were part of the Learning Tree, a ninth-grade alternative program housed in the building that in 1874 was the first "coloured" public school in Frankford. The Learning Tree was designed for students who had experienced academic and emotional problems in their regular school programs and who needed an alternative program's smaller classes and individual attention before they could complete their secondary education in a more traditional environment.^ The course of study, the reconstruction of the history of black Frankford, slowly evolved through a combination of nontraditional historical research methods and ethnographic inquiry. Student participants learned the history of black Frankford through recorded interviews with community elders and community leaders. Further documentation was obtained from the Historical Society of Frankford and other materials prepared by researchers and academicians who represented a number of disciplines and served as consultants to the Frankford Project.^ In the process of discovering the historical roots of the black community, students had to question some of their most firmly held beliefs, attitudes, and opinions on race, socioeconomic class, and religion. Their investigations, although painful, enabled them to determine whether their findings were based upon fact or preconceived and faulty perceptions. It is this process of discovery of the past and its relationship to the present that is the focus of this dissertation. Hence, the title "Boundary Living." Boundary living describes the phenomenon that occurs when members of the community have to bring clarity to the symbols that define their community.^ Ethnographic techniques have the potential to remove one of the major barriers encountered by many innovative educational methods and materials: Insensitivity to the disparity between the culture of the school and its personnel and the culture of the students' homes and communities. Thus the Frankford Project offers an alternative model for future developers of educational methods and curriculum materials through the utilization of anthropological theory, and the ethnographic and ethnohistoric methodology. ^

Subject Area

Education, Social Sciences

Recommended Citation

RAE ALEXANDER-MINTER, "BOUNDARY LIVING: BLACK AND WHITE STUDENTS AND ADULTS STUDY THEIR COMMUNITY THROUGH AN ETHNOGRAPHIC/ETHNOHISTORIC PERSPECTIVE" (January 1, 1981). Dissertations available from ProQuest. Paper AAI8207570.
http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI8207570

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