New podcast sheds light on research and the behind-the-scenes work of Rice historians.

Some of the most visible work done by Rice’s Task Force on Slavery, Segregation and Racial Injustice since its formation in June 2019 is a new podcast, which illuminates work that’s often far less visible: the behind-the-scenes research performed by historians such as Alex Byrd ’90 and Caleb McDaniel.

The two professors are not only co-chairs of the task force, they’re also the hosts of a weekly webinar and podcast called “Doc Talks.” Both formats spotlight an ongoing research project that aims to discover, document and disseminate Rice’s past with respect to slavery, segregation and racial injustice.

Each Friday at noon during the fall semester, Byrd and McDaniel convened via Zoom to discuss documents — “Doc Talks” refers to both the presenters and what they present — found in the process of research done, for example, by students in courses like McDaniel’s Rice, Slavery and Segregation. The course, the webinars and the podcast are just a few of many ongoing efforts by the task force to involve the entire Rice community in its findings.

Documents examined each week include everything from the iconic photograph of Jacqueline McCauley ’70, the first Black female undergrad at Rice, to a letter from Houston philanthropist Joseph Cullinan withdrawing his financial support from Rice over concerns about the presence of the Ku Klux Klan on campus.

“We wanted from the beginning to release the ‘Doc Talks’ as podcast episodes, because we realized that not everyone would be able to attend the live recordings,” McDaniel said. Documents examined each week include everything from the iconic photograph of Jacqueline McCauley ’70, the first Black female undergrad at Rice, to a letter from Houston philanthropist Joseph Cullinan withdrawing his financial support from Rice over concerns about the presence of the Ku Klux Klan on campus.

A student research showcase episode brought together undergraduates and alumni to discuss a touching application essay written in flowing cursive by Rice’s first Black female graduate, Linda Faye Williams ’70, as well as a record of a transaction of $1,450 for “Negro property” in one of William Marsh Rice’s business ledgers from 1859. The latter, buried under 787 pages of other business recordings in that year alone, represents the intense sifting historians must do to find valuable nuggets amid the silt.

The podcast version of “Doc Talks” provides an even deeper dive into questions raised by the week’s research topic, with Byrd and McDaniel recording an addendum to each episode alongside producer Kate Coley ’11, associate director of alumni programs. “Doc Talks” will continue into the spring semester, providing even more fodder for the podcasts and more opportunities for students and professors alike to present their research.

“These talks are an opportunity to inform the Rice community about the work of the task force, but they are also a chance to show our audience how historians work, how we approach documents, what kinds of questions we wrestle with in our discipline,” McDaniel said. 

To listen to episodes of Rice’s “Doc Talks” podcast and view the documents discussed, visit
taskforce.rice.edu/doctalks/podcasts.

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