Spelman Student Michaela Glover is conducting primary research at the Atlanta University Center’s Robert Woodruff Library that makes a fresh contribution to the scholarship on Tupac Shakur. Without giving too much away, here’s how Michaela generously responded to a few questions about her research:
1. What research are you currently conducting? I am interested in the love/hate relationship that Tupac appears to have with black women. Following this interest, I am interested in the way that the obvious female desire conveyed to him through fan mail reads in light of songs like, “Dear Mama,” “Keep Ya Head Up”, “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, and “Same Song,” the Digital Underground joint he was featured on. It would be an egregious oversight if I didn’t consider the significance of the Ayanna Jackson sexual assault case as context in light of my interests so the letters he received while in prison are fascinating. Presently, I am researching how the intense female desire directed towards Tupac when he was alive has informed the fan mail and sympathy cards directed to Afeni Shakur since Pac’s death.
2. What has been the most surprising thing about the experience of performing research? The most surprising thing about the experience with the fan mail is the very powerful emotions that radiate through the letters and cards. I was surprised by how vulgar the letters could get from teenagers! Some of them wanted Tupac sexually while at the same time they wanted him to be their father and so to fill the void left by their own.
At Spelman College, serious research is not limited by class standing. Here, Kayla Thigpen shares her experience conducting primary research as freshman:
This semester I have been doing archival research on the Tupac Amaru Shakur Collection in my First Year Composition class. I began my research by looking through his writings, misbehavior reports, and misbehavior appeals while incarcerated at Clinton Correctional Facility in the state of New York. My goal was to search for a connection related to the mistreatment of prisoners and police brutality. In the midst of my research, I was able to find handwritten documents by Tupac that highlighted first hand the wrongdoings by the Clinton Correctional Facility police officers against him. In addition, Tupac Shakur and his lawyer appealed several misbehavior reports that were wrongfully filed against him. The discrepancies of different times, dates, and statements were very evident during my archival research. After I was finished exploring through the archives, I was able to understand the backwardness and fraud located within the prison system. I now see the crookedness in American policies, laws, and bills. My next step is to intertwine my research about mistreatment of prisoners and police brutality with present day incidents.
Junior, English major Joslyn Smith’s archival research has deeply impacted her as a student and a citizen. She discusses that work here:
I began conducting research on the Atlanta Child Murders and the effects that a missing child has on a mother and the family in my English 314 class. While researching, I instantly made a connection between the mothers of the Atlanta Child Murders and the mothers of slain children such as Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin. This archival work allowed me to explore ongoing issues such as racism, white supremacy and police brutality through the lens of absence. I saw that the death of these children marks racial violence as the absence of humanity, of decency, of compassion. It is clearer to me now that my work examines the “missing” qualities of human character as they are set against the physical absence these extreme forms of violence often generate. Furthermore, I want to know whether these holes make healing impossible. Doing this research has impacted how I read. My reading more closely examines the implications of what I might be missing.
Spelman College students are working on many interesting research projects. Junior, English major, Achaia Moore offers one such example. In sharing a description of this work, she writes:
Currently, I am interested in conducting research about the impact that beauty salons have on Black women who have lost their sons due to white supremacist violence. I would like to look at women such as Mamie Till, Sabrina Fulton, and local women in my home state, Mississippi. If possible, I would like to interview those women about the need to feel beautiful in the aftermath of their loss. In this way, I hope to gain a greater understanding of the quintessential role that beauty salons have historically played in black communities. I am interested and how this atmosphere continues to help these women face race, gender, and devastation in America.