NC State-Produced Documentary Wins Emmy Award

By Heather Moylan | College of Humanities and Social Sciences News

Not one, not two … but three.

That’s how many Emmy awards the Language and Life Project (LLP) at NC State now has.

Talking Black in America, a feature-length film that highlights the rich history of African-American English, won in the documentary/cultural category at the 34th Annual Midsouth Regional Emmy Awards in Nashville on Feb. 15.

Executive producer Walt Wolfram, William C. Friday Distinguished Professor of English at NC State and Park Faculty Scholar for the Class of 2005, says this documentary is an opportunity to tackle misconceptions and change the narrative.

“People don’t realize how much African-American English has given to American English,” Wolfram says. “Its history. Its development. Its vibrancy.”

Walt Wolfram holding Emmy award
Executive producer Walt Wolfram accepts Emmy award for “Talking Black in America.”

Produced and directed by Danica Cullinan and Neal Hutcheson, Talking Black in America follows the unique circumstances of the descendants of slaves and their impact on American life and language. It features interviews with linguists, historians and African-American cultural leaders.

Wolfram received a $461,416 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce a separate, four-part miniseries on African-American language, focusing on its role in history, education, diversity and performance.

The first episode in that series, Signing Black in America, was screened on the NC State campus on Feb. 24, 2020. It explores Black ASL — the unique dialect of American Sign Language (ASL) that developed within historically segregated African-American Deaf communities. Signing Black is signed/subtitled and voiced.

The Language and Life Project at NC State is a nonprofit outreach education endeavor to document and celebrate dialects, languages and cultures of the United States.

This article was originally published by College of Humanities and Social Sciences News.