Jazzy Quilters, Contemptible Collectibles, and a First Family With Soul:  Documenting Folklore and Popular Culture by and about African Americans

With objects as varied as mammy cookie jars and homemade quilts, and ill-intentioned rumors about gang initiation rituals and Barack Obama’s citizenship, Patricia A. Turner, Professor of African American Studies and World, Arts, and Culture/Dance at UCLA, will explore and find meaning in the multi-faceted realm of folklore and popular culture by and about African Americans.  As she demonstrates in her five books, any claim to understanding race in the United States that doesn’t take into account the expressions of everyday life is woefully inaccurate and incomplete.

This year’s Distinguished Lecture will be on Thursday, March 30th at 7p.m. in the UWM at Waukesha Northview Building, Room N133. This lecture is free and open to the public.

More About Patricia A. Turner

Patricia A. Turner is a folklorist who documents and analyzes the stories that define the African American experience.

A professor in World Arts and Cultures/Dance and African American Studies at UCLA, Turner is the author of of five books on topics including rumors, legends, and conspiracy theories; to African American quilters; and images of African Americans in popular culture. She is a 2021 recipient of the Linda Dégh Lifetime Achievement Award for legend scholarship. Her latest book,Trash Talk: Anti-Obama Lore and Race in the Twenty-First Century, was published by the University of California Press in September 2022.

Dr. Turner’s commentary on issues related to race in America is frequently sought by print, radio, television and online journalists. She has been interviewed for stories in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, and many other prominent publications including the highly regarded fact checking website Snopes. Turner has participated in dozens of radio interviews including features on Fresh Air, Talk of the Nation, and All Things Considered. She has appeared on the NBC Nightly News, the CBS Evening News, the O’Reilly Factor and ABC’s 20/20. She has also been interviewed on podcasts such as Stitch Please and The Root.

Turner has taught in the University of California system for more than 30 years. For much of her career she provided leadership in higher education serving in vice provost and dean roles at UC Davis and UCLA. She is very active in professional societies devoted to folklore, and oversees UCLA’s Arthur Ashe Legacy Project.

Although she spends most of the year in Los Angeles where she teaches, she remains strongly connected to Sag Harbor and Bridgehampton, New York where she grew up; her next research project will focus on the communities of color based in those neighboring villages. Whether she is in LA or on the eastern end of Long Island, she never misses an opportunity to take a Zumba class and can often be found on trails or beaches in search of birds.