African-American History: Creating a Space for Digital Projects

Being able to interact with history is one of the best ways for students and the general public to create meaningful connections between the present and the past. Our present is one of social distancing and online learning, causing many to enter the digital sphere to interact with history rather than going to museums or historical sites. Luckily, there are a plethora of online sources for people to use. One of the challenges is wading through and figuring out which sources can be trusted and are actually engaging.

Since my special interest is in African-American History, I propose to create a website using Word Press that gathers together digital projects centered around African-American History. I will provide a description of each project, examples of how they can be used in a classroom setting as well as general outreach for the public, and resources for those who want to delve deeper into specific subtopics presented in each project.

One of the most well known examples is the Slave Voyages website that gathers together sources from around the world about global slave trades. The project is the result of decades of independent research and collaboration between universities and is continuing to be updated. On my website I would talk about the different resources available (such as the interactive maps and 3D models of ships) and how to best navigate the site, as it can be overwhelming at first.

There are a few websites already that have collected digital projects about African-American History, but they are usually geared towards an academic audience rather than the general public. My project would seek to close this gap.

-Evelyn Baldwin

2 Replies to “African-American History: Creating a Space for Digital Projects”

  1. Great idea Evelyn! This is an issue that popped up in Dr. Crystal Moten’s Black Digital History course last semester. There are so many Black DH projects out there, but they can be hard to find, and most databases don’t include a whole lot of information about what each project does. I especially like your idea of including possibilities for using these projects in classrooms – they’re rich resources that could be a huge benefit to students, but very few come with built-in lesson plans.

    One project to you might be interested in – stolen from Joshua’s presentation last semester, so credit to @jjohnson for finding this! – is the Black Film Archive. It’s a great Black DH project geared to broad audiences.

  2. Hi Evelyn,

    This is a great idea. As you have pointed out, there are a lot of great resources out there, but the idea of having a site where you aggregate information about them and then provide context and suggestions on how classroom teachers can use them would be something I could imagine there being a lot of interest in.

    I think there are a few different ways you could set up a site like this, but my initial thought is that running something like this as a blog would likely be an effective approach. If you set something like this up in WordPress you could then have each post be about a different specific resource and provide the info and links on it. Then you could use tags to organize all the posts according to different topics or themes that you think would be particularly useful or relevant to teachers. If you set it up as a blog, then you end up with a built in process for publishing new content and it could build interest/momentum over time.

    Altogether, this is a solid idea. I think you have a good sense of the audience for it and I think what you are proposing could be very doable in the semester. In terms of scoping, I think you could plan to do something like get info together on 7-12 of these kinds of resources to demonstrate how the site would work/function as a working proof of concept for the project. If you wanted to do more than that you would be welcome to but I think one thing to figure out with it would be getting the right balance to really show what kind of information you would pull together for each of the resources you review/comment on.

    Best, Trevor

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