Chad Infante selected as 2020 Elevate Fellow

January 28, 2020

The African America Digital Humanities Initiative and the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center recognize Infante's project to revamp his class, "Race, Children's TV, and the Legacies of Jim Henson."

Photograph of Chad InfanteInfante's class explores the medium and content of “children’s television” from animated cartoons to educational children’s programing.

Taking the child as a critical figure and thinking deeply about medium and form, the first half of the class begins by studying the connection between blackface minstrelsy and the founding of the animation industry in the 1910’s to show how blackface became essential not only to the content of animated cartoons but also to the structure and industry itself. 

The second half of the class focuses on cartoons of the 1910’s-1960’s and the educational programing made for children in the 1960’s, significantly influenced by the work of Jim Henson.

Keeping the racial foundation of children’s television in mind, students examine Sesame Street, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and The Electric Company to ask what the different forms of animation, puppetry, claymation, and live acting foreclose and open up in children’s imagination of difference.

By studying discontinued characters such as Franklin and Billy Joe Jive on Sesame Street, the class explores how educational television both combats and recreates racial representations.  The class will work closely with the broadcasting special collections librarians in the Hornbake Library and with the African American Digital Studies Initiative as it engages students in thinking about the relationship between race, media, and archives.