Alvin L. Smith is a postgraduate student pursuing his PhD in American History at Royal Holloway, University of London. He received his BA in Social Science from Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, New Jersey and his MA in Modern and Medieval History from Royal Holloway, University of London. His current interests are lesser known African-American historical figures and culture motifs. He is currently researching the history of Gangsta’ Rap music. He can be found online at https://royalholloway.academia.edu/AlvinSmith

Not just Yo’ Mama but Rap’s Mama: The Dozens, African American Culture and the Origins of Battle Rap

The most famous Dozens recording is the 1938 recording performed by Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, known professionally as Jelly Roll Morton, the self-proclaimed inventor of Jazz music. This concept of taking an African-American oral tradition and putting it to music is a time honored tradition that continues until this very day. The utilization of rhyming mechanisms and swift off the cuff lyrics needed during bouts of The Dozens was easily transferred into the linguistic styles utilized by MC’s during rap battles in the early days of the Hip-Hop era. This makes it clear then that The Dozens, as Elijah Wald writes, is “Rap’s Mama”. Continue reading

Why High School Teachers should teach History through and beyond Narrative

“A postmodernist historian would hold that history, and historiography, cannot be simply quantified and determined as one particular narrative with one particular meaning. The problem with this is that non-narrative history typically represents the larger group – the cohort or mass actor. By contrast, a narrative approach to history-telling is more likely to focus on the individual, a character or narrator who reveals their personal experiences and perhaps their emotional responses to historical events and dilemmas. Students of history can commonly relate more easily to the individual, with whom they may be able to identify common experiences or emotions.” Continue reading