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AfriGeneas Writers Forum

The Challenge of a Memoir in Biographical Research

Dear AfriGeneas Writers Forum:

Dr. Craig Lloyd of Columbia College presented a fascinating paper on the life of Eugene Bullard. Listed in The Proceedings and Papers of the Georgia Association of Historians, the paper is entitled:

“The Challenge of a Memoir in Biographical Research: Eugene Bullard’s “All Blood Runs Red.”

Whether you are a Georgia family historian, a black military WWI historian, an early jazz enthusiast, have an interest in the African Diaspora, or a writer of the African American experience, then you will appreciate Dr. Lloyd’s paper. I claim an interest in all of the above, even though many of you know that I’m a shameless promoter of Florida history.

“The Challenge of a Memoir in Biographical Research…” is an important cautionary tale about too much reliance on a memoir or oral history. It’s apparent that Dr. Lloyd was intrigued by the life of Eugene Bullard. Who wouldn’t be? Bullard was born in Georgia, was a young stowaway on a ship headed for Europe, became a decorated war hero, was a boxer, had a nightclub in Paris etc.

“In this paper, I want to convey how a memoir, written later in life and without much documentation to aid the memory, both assists and challenges the biographer,” writes Dr. Lloyd.

All too often, the research of black and white biographers of African Americans is fraught with mistakes. Their reliance on memoirs and oral history is often the cause. These well-intentioned authors may unwittingly perpetuate a flawed history that opens the door to derision of the African American experience. At the bottom rung of research are the self-anointed historians who knowingly hawk baseless oral histories to line their pockets. (Please read the postings from AfriGeneas scholars on its Underground Railroad page who debunked the myths of Jacqueline Tobin).

Please click on the link below to read Craig Lloyd’s paper, “The Challenge of a Memoir in Biographical Research: Eugene Bullard’s “All Blood Runs Red.”

To learn more about the incredible life of Eugene Bullard, you an read Craig Lloyd’s biography, “Eugene Bullard, Black Expatriate in Jazz-Age Paris”, University of Georgia Press.


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18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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