Gayle Nolan, a Mount Carmel Academy former teacher and alumna, recently spoke to students in Mrs. Richard's African-American Literature class. Mrs. Nolan is the editor of What Love Can Do by Arthur Mitchell. The book is a collection of oral history and slave narratives from New Orleans and the surrounding areas.
For twenty-five years, Mrs. Nolan taught at Delgado serving students who did not have early access to literacy. While teaching there, she met a woman named Teryl Mitchell, who shared the manuscript of her father Arthur Mitchell's book What Love Can Do. The stories in his book were passed down to him when he was little boy by members of his family and community; he recorded them over the course of years by writing on his lunch break while working at the Cabildo. The original manuscript was lost in Hurricane Katrina, leaving Ms. Nolan with the only extant copy, which she brought for the students to examine.
Ms. Nolan discussed the challenges of editing a handwritten manuscript so that a wide audience could understand the stories but the rich, original voice of the author wouldn't be compromised. As she put it, she felt called to help "people tell their stories and to do it in a powerful way." In order to do this, she had to treat the manuscript as a historical document and maintain its original integrity, an important concept for our students to understand.
The class will continue its study by examining how they can use social media to extend awareness of the book and the important narrative it provides.