Digital Project Proposal: Southern Temple Bombing Timeline

As stated in my Print Project Proposal, historians of American Jewish history and the Civil Rights Movement pay scant attention to southern temple bombings during this era. Additionally, there is no academic scholarship or digital resources solely dedicated to this subject — the incidents are confined to one chapter or stuck in a mere footnote. To remedy this gap in scholarship and to create the first comprehensive, interactive resource on southern temple bombings during the Civil Rights Movement, I will create a timeline of the following bombings and bomb threats:

  • Temple Beth-El in Charlotte, NC on November 11, 1957
  • Temple Emanuel in Gastonia, NC on February 11, 1958
  • Temple Beth-El in Miami, FL on March 16, 1958
  • Temple Beth-El in Birmingham, AL on April 28, 1958
  • B’nai Israel in Little Rock, AR (date currently unknown)
  • Agudath Achim in Alexandria, VA (date currently unknown)
  • Hebrew Benevolent Congregation (The Temple) in Atlanta, GA on October 12, 1958

I will probably use StoryMaps, so I can embed newspaper clippings, newscasts, oral histories, photographs, court documents, and other primary sources for each incident. I will also use secondary sources, such as Clive Webb’s Fight Against Fear: Southern Jews and Black Civil Rights, Leonard Dinnerstein’s “Southern Jewry and the Desegregation Crisis, 1954-1970,” and Melissa Faye Greene’s The Temple Bombing to provide the necessary context around antisemitism, Black-Jewish relations and Communism during the time period and within the southern region. Hopefully, this digital resource will be helpful to historians and students of American Jewish history, Black-Jewish relations, the Civil Rights Movement and white supremacy, as well as any person interested in learning more about this topic.

Here are some of the research questions I hope to answer with this digital platform and resource:

  • How do the temple bombings differ between states?
    • Examine the differences between white supremacist groups and their intimidation methods before the bombing, the response of temple leadership, those within the Jewish community and those outside (Christian, Black and other relevant communities)
  • In what ways are they similar? Are there any visible patterns between incidents?
    • Do white supremacists attack random temples or those with strong leadership and activism? Those with tight-knit communities?
  • Did the temple bombings strengthen or weaken the temple’s activism during the Civil Rights Movement?

I am not 100% sure on my plans for outreach yet, as well as using StoryMaps as a platform. It seems a little clunky to me and not as smooth as I had hoped for interactive storytelling. However, compared to TimelineJS, it allows for more multimedia content. If anyone has any suggestions on other platforms, I would love to hear them!

-Rachael Davis

2 Replies to “Digital Project Proposal: Southern Temple Bombing Timeline”

  1. I love this, Rachael! I’m not familiar with these events (and I’m not surprised from your explanation here), but this sounds like a perfect opportunity to build scholarship in this gap in scholarship. I think there is definitely some relevancy to this subject matter and the event completely shatters our understanding of Holocaust memory, Jewish history, etc., with the event taking place in ’58, several years after the end of WWII.

    I think StoryMaps is a great place to begin with this project. If you find yourself needing something else, doing a basic website build may suit your needs and then maybe hyperlink it into StoryMaps or another place someone else suggests.

  2. Hi Racheal,

    Overall this sounds like a great project. I think it makes a lot of sense to work between a map and a timeline within StoryMaps. Given that you have these specific temples and their communities to focus on, I think you also have a rather solid built-in community to look at doing outreach to and with. That is, I could well see the resulting resource you develop through this being something that each of those temples might link to and share out about with their communities.

    In thinking about this project and your print project, I can see compelling reasons to go either way. If you run with the digital project version, you would get more experience creating an online resource. That said, I think the idea of studying the way that the temple bombings are covered in online resources as you proposed in your print project could result in interesting and likely publishable research. Beyond that, if you did do the print project approach, I think the results from doing that study could be useful to inform the future design of a digital project like this as you would learn a lot about what is and isn’t being covered about it from the temples themselves.

    In any event, I think both of these approaches could make for great projects and ultimately I think it’s mostly about what you want to get out of the rest of the semester.

    Best, Trevor

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