The Neighborhood Story Project (NSP) began in 2004 with the mission “our stories told by us.” For seven years, it worked at public high school called John McDonogh Senior High whose student body came directly from the Tremé neighborhood. Many of the students had attended after school and sum-mer camps sponsored by Tambourine and Fan, and the NSP often documented the Super Sunday parade. Based at the high school until it shut down in 2011, the NSP has published nine full-length books with high school students, and developed and implement-ed in-depth teacher trainings and curriculums for students ranging from elementary school through college. The books continue to be taught in history, social studies, and English courses in New Orleans and around the country. Overall, the organization has published 15 books with grassroots organizations, benevolent societies, community-based museums, tribal councils, and arts organizations, which have sold over 50,000 copies.
In 2012, the co-director, Rachel Breunlin, an ethnographer who also teaches courses on public culture, in-depth interviewing, and fieldwork in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Or-leans, teamed up with Bruce Barnes, an interpretive park ranger at the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park (NOJNHP), to work on Talk That Mu-sic Talk. Barnes has had over 28 years of experience developing interpretive media, public programs, and tours, which led the NOJNHP to be one of the most well known National Parks in the country.
Talk That Music Talk is the product of two and half years of research with musicians and civil rights leaders in New Orleans. It r included an extensive review of oral histories already conducted by the park service, a literature review of music and civil rights histories of New Orleans and jazz musicians, and the development of partnerships with important jazz and civil rights archives around the city. After this initial stage of research was complete, musicians and community leaders were invited to a workshop to help outline the framework of the book project and what they would like to see included. It was de-termined that Civil Rights was an important compo-nent often missing from the history of music in New Orleans. As a group, we created a list of questions, and then conducted semi-structured, in-depth inter-views with 32 musicians and civil rights organizers. Barnes and Breunlin transcribed the interviews, ed-ited them, and then worked with participants to do follow up rounds of interviews to develop their life histories. Following the best practices in oral history, this co-editing often took three and four rounds of meetings to fully develop the narrative, which were then cross-checked with the historical record.
In addition to the life histories, Barnes and Breun-lin chose over 300 historical photographs from the Civil Rights movement and progression of jazz in the city to complement the text. Barnes also took over 200 formal portraits and candid images to document the contemporary culture of musical mentorship. The book was peer reviewed by an editorial board that included anthropologists, jazz historians, and musicians. For more information, see Barnes and Breunlin’s article, “The Last Brass Band? Musical Mentorship and Social Justice Organizing,” in the Smithsonian’s Folkways Magazine.