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Exploring Primary Sources: Braden Exercise


In 1958, Anne Braden published her book The Wall Between. A memoir of sorts, the book focuses on Carl and Anne Braden’s decision to assist Andrew Wade and gives context to the individuals involved and the places and people that helped shape them. In the preface, Anne writes that:  

“At best, there are disadvantages when a story is told by one of its principals. Some degree of bias, no matter how hard one seeks to avoid it, is probably inevitable. But there may also be advantages. Today, when so many ‘objective’ observers are attempting to analyze the sources of racial conflict, some additional insights may be gained if the story of one of these incidents is told from the inside—by one who was deeply involved and by one who might well have been on either side of the conflict.” (xii) 

As you look at the materials and work through the discussion questions with your group, think about the context in which this was created and consider what unique knowledge and perspective we can gain from it.


Brainstorm. List 10-20 words or phrases about the documents/items. Start with the details of the document, like topic, names, publication, etc. What do you find interesting? Strange? Do you find anything appealing or disturbing? Things you don’t understand or are unfamiliar with?

Bias. Identify some biases in play. What do we know or what can we infer about the speakers? Whose perspective is represented? Who is the target audience? 

Context. Think about the when and why of this primary source. What gives their voice authority? What should we be wary of? What makes this a valuable resource to the topic? 

Language. How are these topics and perspectives sensationalized through the language used? Identify some key words or phrases that are meant to elicit strong reactions.

Power. What power relationships can you identify in the materials? Can you identify any gaps or silences? Try to think in terms of format in addition to content. 

Reflections. What can we learn from these materials? How is our understanding of the topic enhanced through these first-hand recollections? What are some avenues for further research on this topic? Why does this matter? 


Page 1, description of Carl Braden telling Anne Braden they were buying a new house, Anne Braden protesting they had only lived in their current home for two years.
Page 2, Carl Braden explains that Andrew Wade wants them to buy a a house and transfer it to him. Carl describes the difficulty Wade has had in buying a house.
Page 3, Anne Braden describes their motivation for complying with Wade's request, and her attempt to suggest he move to a mixed neighborhood rather than a white neighborhood.
Page 4, Anne Braden describes her only moment of hesitation, asking Carl if their plan was legal. Carl responds that people will be upset, but that it is legal.
Page 5, Anne Braden describes their expectation that the sale would create a stir but that they never anticipated the level of violence and repercussion that followed.