Civil Rights Assassinations and Murders: Responses and Reactions that Inspired Key Civil Rights Moments

This is my Conference Poster but I’ll also add an option to download it!

Here is a link to my ArcGIS project and below is my conference poster to download.

This project was both rewarding and mentally draining. Not because it was an assigned project that took a long time, but because of the nature of my project. Researching, writing, and making maps about murders and assassinations that are racially motivated takes a toll, but a toll that is worth it. I opted to include several graphic photos, including a disclaimer at the beginning of the project, because it felt necessary. Most of the time I felt incredibly insensitive adding these photos of people who had been brutalized and killed but I constantly had to remind myself that these things happened, these events altered history, and these people matter. We are often desensitized to graphic images today, so these photos might not outright trigger you, but as you see these photos, remind yourself that these are people, these are victims of brutality and racism that our country still faces today.  

I decided to include murders of not just famous activists, which I think is beneficial to the project and learning about events in Civil Rights. The inclusion of all kinds of murders and assassinations can help learners understand that the deaths of major activists were not the only thing to get the nation’s attention. People like Emmett Till or the four little girls in Birmingham were not civil rights activists but their deaths sparked something larger for the movement. Even activists who were virtually unknown had an impact with their deaths such as Jimmie Lee Jackson.

Also from the comments on my update post, I decided to include a “Beyond Civil Rights” section, and I’m so glad that I did. The inclusion of post-Civil Rights deaths is important because the Civil Rights Movement did not end in 1968 which is often cited as its end date. Although laws were passed giving legal rights, systematic racism was and is still rampant throughout the nation and that is demonstrated by including these deaths. It also helps to show that even deaths today inspire black activists to continue their fight and show them that the fight is not close to being over. I made a subtle point to make all of my Civil Rights photos in black and white, because those events are often seen as a time that is foreign to us and there is no real way to connect with it. But, with the “Beyond Civil Rights” section, I intentionally made sure every photo was in color, as a subtle way to bring the legacy of Civil Rights to the present with the murders and brutality that we see today.

Ultimately, I did not have time to do extensive research on deaths that happened before Civil Rights, so I ended up just doing the post-Civil Rights information. This is something I would like to add as a future addition to my project because those deaths are just as important and deserve to be recognized. I’d also want to go deeper and add more people than who I have currently in the Civil Rights and post-Civil Rights categories. I think this has the potential to be a much bigger project than I currently have.

Regarding the technicalities of the project, ArcGIS is easy in theory, but I had no idea what I was doing, therefore some of my maps might be a bit messy. It was frustrating that only one photo was allowed per point on the maps because for some of the points I could have chosen from hundreds of options, and one just wasn’t enough. I wanted to create more of a gallery for each of the points but I couldn’t figure out how on ArcGIS. The maps also like to zoom in and out on their own free will no matter what I do to them, so if you encounter this problem I’m sorry!! The application is still a great tool, but it seems definitely geared more toward actual GIS work, hence the name. I feel fairly proud of the project and although it has its flaws, I hope you guys enjoy it!

I’m very sad to not be ending the semester with all of you! Hopefully the fall will bring us better days and many happy hours to make up for lost time.

Civil Rights Assassinations and Murders – Project Update

Hey everyone! I hope you all are doing well!

Originally, my project was going to be mapping the Civil Rights movement but after looking into it further, I realized as cool of an idea it could be, it would be a lot to take on for one person. So, based on the conversation we had in class about my project, I decided to focus on different assassinations and murders of the Civil Rights movement and the impact each of them had on other Civil Rights events using Arc GIS. I would include a link to the project but that would require me to publish it but I’m not sure if I can edit it again after that so I didn’t want to risk it.

Honestly this is a pretty brutal project and sometimes I feel insane for doing it but it’s also really interesting

I’ve picked several key figures, which I’ll write more about later in the post, but eventually, with more time to do research, I’d like to expand the project to include figures that aren’t as well known in this. For now, I’ve selected people who I know off the bat had a major influence with their deaths, going chronologically, beginning with Emmett Till.

For each person I plan to include their death date, a photo of them, and probably a short bio. I haven’t included the bio here yet because I’m not totally sure what all to include in it that would be relevant. That is my first question that I hope you guys might be able to help me with. What would you want to see in the bio of these people? Do you care about their background outside of Civil Rights? Or would it be more beneficial and concise to include just information about their activism or life as a black person during Jim Crow. This is a little more difficult for figures like Till and the four girls killed in the 16th St Birmingham Church bombing because none of them were actively involved in advancing civil rights, they were all just kids hanging out with their cousins or going to church. Any advice on how to approach the bio/info/whatever section?

For each assassination or murder I’m including a numbered point as the assassination/murder location, including a photo, the date, and information about what happened. The points stemming out from there are then events that happened in response to the assassination/murder and also include a photo, dates, and descriptions. The plot in Chicago is the funeral of Till which gained media attention at the request of his mother and was one of the sparks of the Civil Rights movements. The plot in Sumner, Mississippi is the trial of Milam and Bryant where they were acquitted of killing Till. The Montgomery point is the Montgomery Bus Boycott in which Rosa Parks was inspired by Till to not give up her seat that day. Some of these assassinations/murders will have more or less responses, this one being one of the fewer, but MLK’s assassination will obviously have many more points.

The above are the other assassinations/murders I have planned out, so this is where I ask my second question: Can any of you think of others I should add to this list? These were the ones I know really well. I also have another question for you guys. I had the idea of taking this beyond Civil Rights and sort of showing how this kind of things continues even today with maybe a post Civil Rights section. I was thinking about including people like Rodney King (although he wasn’t assassinated, there was a huge response to his attack by police), Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, etc. I didn’t know if this would be too much or stemming too far from my original idea but I thought it might be an interesting inclusion to the conversation about race. Let me know what you guys think! I hope all of your projects are going well!

Straight White Male: the Lowest Difficulty Setting

I’m not sure how many of you like playing video games, but I know for me it’s definitely one of my favorite activities. One thing I haven’t really thought much of though, is the connection of video games to history, even more, the connection to video games and race and gender. Maybe this is because I play games that don’t have any overarching themes of race such as any of the Mario series, or Animal Crossing, or maybe it’s because I haven’t thought deep enough into how race and racism are actually very apparent in both the creation of video games as well as the culture that surrounds them. In this post I’ll be telling you about two of this week’s articles: “Modeling Indigenous Peoples: Unpacking Ideology in Sid Meier’s Colonization” by Rebecca Mir and our very favorite Trevor Owens, and “Gender and Race Online” by Lisa Nakamura. I also used the title for my post from John Scalzi’s essay via Nakamura’s article (it was too good not to use).

In “Gender and Race Online,” Nakamura evaluates both race and gender regarding videogames and she does this by looking at both the creation of video games as well as the people who play them. Much of her discussion revolves around the fact that we live in a supposedly “post-racial” society and the creation of traditional gender roles we see surrounding playing video games. Beginning with race, Nakamura cites the fact that minorities are actually represented more often in video games than white males. On the surface, this fact seems to fall in line with the idea that we live in a post-racial society, until you read deeper to find out that these groups are usually represented as the antagonists or enemies in games. This produces the argument of “racialized pedagogical zones,” which is a term I think is really interesting. It essentially means a place, such as a video game, “that teach[es] young players the proper place for race and criminalized bodies” (Nakamura, 84). With teaching young players, either overtly or covertly, about the commonality and acceptability of racism, it lends to them using racialized terms to other players, which according to the article, is a much bigger problem that we see it to be, proved by the creation of crowdsourcing websites against these types of remarks. This same type of thing happens with gendered terms as well. Many of these games and culture around video games promote masculinity and often exclude women both in the actual game and from the culture itself, claiming that video games are for boys. One player was even quoted saying he has the right to say whatever he wants about women because it was part of the video game culture. Because video games have been traditionally masculine creates a sexist atmosphere around gaming that often men can’t shake, causing for this overt sexism to be present in these cultures.

While Nakamura focuses on culture and game creation in general, Mir and Owens focus specifically on Civilization IV: Colonization, a game revolving around the colonization of the Americas. Mir and Owens argue that this game “presents a particular ideological model of the world. Specifically, Colonization’s model restricts potential readings to a limited and Americanized colonist ideology,” and they also aim to understand how ideology is created (Mir and Owens, 92). With this, it glorifies conquest and suggests through the actual gameplay that the colonization and subsequent murder of indigenous people was inevitable. One of the ways they reinforce this notion is with a “strict and problematic win condition” where the player is forced to play as a colonial power and cannot be a native group unless they were to modify the game themselves (Ibid., 94). This forces the player to reenact what happened with colonization but only through the colonizers’ point of view. Even if the game is modified to play as the natives, they still have limited abilities which reinforces their “inferiority” and inability to advance as a people. Natives can also assimilate to literally change races and become a European if they are educated in the game, again reinforcing their inferiority and their “need” to be educated by a white man. In contrast, a white European can never assimilate to native culture in the game, suggesting their culture dominates over the natives and is impenetrable by outside forces. Even with all of these issues, Mir and Owens believe that because the game essentially requires you to reenact history, it puts a level of guilt upon the player for having to do horrible things in the game. They do argue, however, that there is not enough guilt placed upon the player because many events recounted in the game are whitewashed and you also cannot experience the colonization from the native point of view.

Civilization IV: Colonization - Largest Colony Ever! 40+ ...
Part of the Colonization gameplay. You can see how many controls there are. I tried playing Civilization VI and I had no clue what was going on. In this respect, it’s certainly understandable leaving things out for better gameplay.

Reading both of these articles really got me thinking about the video games I play and how they might fall into these problematic categories of promoting racism, even if it’s not incredibly noticeable. Many of you might be familiar with the Animal Crossing series, especially because Animal Crossing: New Horizons just came out on the Switch. The game seems like a relatively problem free game considering it is just a bunch of cute cartoon animals running around an island. But before Animal Crossing: New Horizons, you could not change your skin color, making your character consistently white (unless you went to the island too long, then you’d get a sunburn). This is certainly a minor issue regarding race, especially compared to other games like Colonization, but the lack of being able to create a character that truly represents yourself can be a harmful thing because it shows that the creators of the game don’t acknowledge your race as a viable player. Another game I play that I thought of was The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. While this game doesn’t have traditional races, it has races that are its own and based on the race you choose at the beginning, you will be treated a certain way by other characters in the game. This isn’t incredibly noticeable either, and if you’re a casual player it’s probably even more unnoticeable. Either way, these ideas exist in this game and even if it’s not an attempt to be overtly racist, it still has the potential to instill the belief in young players that some races are superior to others.

The beginning of Skyrim where you choose which race you want to play as

What do we do with all of this? Games like Colonization have a lot of potential to be played as historically accurate simulations to help young gamers understand history, but only if they are truly representative of what happened. It feels like Colonization is only halfway there. They remove and whitewash a lot of factors in the game and some of it is understandable so the game isn’t messier than it needs to be but that’s what history is. Should Colonization or games like it include perspectives of the colonizers and the colonized? Are these games profiting off simulating the terror that happened to these groups? What would we think if there was a slavery simulation? Do you think that most people playing these types of games are doing it to educate themselves about history? Or are they playing simply for the entertainment value? Do games like these glorify historical events such as colonization and suggest that it was inevitable to kill millions of natives? How do we as historians promote these games as learning tools rather than entertainment? Should we be doing that? I have all of these questions and more about video games and history and I really want to discuss with you all!!!

Mystery House: A fun murder mystery game for all your social distancing needs!

Hello all my lovely people, I hope you’re having a fabulous quarantine. If you are in need of some entertainment during this weird and strange time in our lives, you’ve come to the right place! In this post I’ll be showing you the wildly simple and strangely complex game called Mystery_House.dsk which is filled with murder, doors, and two-word commands. The game 100% reminded me of my cult classic favorite, Clue, which everyone should watch immediately.

There are numerous versions of the game when you click the link Trevor provided in the syllabus, but I went ahead and played the original game. In order to play Mystery_House.dsk you have to download a Glulx interpreter which was something totally foreign to me. According to the website, it’s not included in our major operating systems like Windows and OS X. This interpreter, from what I understand, is a program that reads a story file and allows you to play the interactive fiction game, which is what Mystery_House.dsk is. All I really understand is that I needed to download this software in order to download and play Mystery_House.dsk, so maybe Trevor could explain more in the comments!

If this game isn’t the epitome of the 1980s computer abilities I don’t know what is. That being said, it’s actually a really cool game that has lots of hidden secrets. The game starts at this big mystery house and when you enter, you are met by seven people who soon disappear and as you move about the house, you find them dead throughout and your ultimate goal is to find out which of the seven people in the house killed everyone else. Does it sound like Clue yet?????

Instead of being able to move freely around the house like games nowadays, the only way you can move and look at things is by using two-word commands. Usually you start by choosing a verb, such as go, look, open, close, up, down, take, read, etc. and add a noun with it to perform the action on. So many of the commands I found myself using were “open door,” “go door,” “look body,” “take [object],” “go stairs,” etc. In order to move about the house you have to use cardinal directions by either typing “north” or “n.”

As simple as the game seems, it’s honestly kind of hard to maneuver since you can only give two-word commands. I tried to play a few times before I just couldn’t figure out how to stop the game from going dark (you have to find a candle and matches to keep the game lit). I found some walkthroughs to be able to play and see the game with more ease because I couldn’t even get up the stairs to the house the first few times I played oops.

Once I had the walkthrough the game went by quickly and it was fun to see how the game is supposed to be played. Almost every room there seems to be a dead body that gives more clues to who the killer is, along with four notes that are littered throughout the game. These notes can be picked up as clues to where the treasure is saying things like “7-6=1. Then I am done!” suggesting the murderer will kill everyone in the house until they are the only one left. The last note is picked up by the killer themselves, spoiler alert, it’s Daisy, and it says “It’s in the basement!” referring to the treasure. I did learn if you try to take the note from Daisy before you kill her, she’ll kill you first.

Matthew Kirschenbaum in Mechanisms goes over the game in his third chapter and along with playing the game, he uses a hex editor to go through the actual coding and ins and outs of the disk that the game is on. After a quick google search, I found that a hex editor allows you to edit the raw data of a file instead of having the computer software attempt to interpret the file for you. With the hex editor, he is able to read between tracks where he can tell that Mystery_House.dsk is not the only game on the disk and that other games previously existed on the same disk. He explains that even though Mystery_House.dsk is the primary game on the disk, by using the hex editor you can find bits and pieces of other games that once existed on the disk and had been overwritten. He specifically found a game called Dung Beetles and a Pac-Man like game in between two tracks on the disk. I am still a little confused as to how the hex editor works so maybe Trevor could elaborate on that too!

In conclusion, go play the game or watch Clue during your quarantine!!!

The Bracero Archive

Bracero [bɾa.’se.ɾo], a Spanish word translating to “laborer” or more specifically “farm laborer,” stemming from the Spanish word “brazo,” meaning “arm.” (I studied Spanish phonetics in undergrad so I really wanted to include the phonetic transcription because phonetics is fun don’t mind me)

Background to the Bracero Program

Some of you might not have studied the Bracero program, so I want to give a little background for those who aren’t familiar. The Bracero program began in 1942 with the Mexican Farm Labor Agreement, signed by both the United States and Mexico. This agreement allowed for Mexican workers, mostly men, to migrate to the United States for a period of time for the US to use as a source of cheap labor. This program went on for twenty years, being terminated in 1964. After numerous problems with illegal immigration, the government set up Operation Wetback in order to send these illegal immigrants back to Mexico, but it affected the Bracero workers as well. Ultimately, this program caused heightened tensions regarding immigrants and constant discrimination and anti-Mexican sentiment was growing during this period, especially during Operation Wetback. Officials used anti-immigrant propaganda, such as portraying Mexicans as dirty, lazy, menacing, irresponsible, etc., to justify their actions in deporting this group. There’s a lot more to the Bracero program so go read more!!

Introduction to the Website

First and foremost, the website has a Spanish version! This option makes it much more inclusive especially since the participants of this program were native Spanish speakers. The archive also got the Public History Project Award in 2010!! All of this is fantastic, but today I’ll be taking you on a journey of the fabulous toolbar the website has to offer.

The Toolbar!

First, we have the Archive tab, which is the most useful for research purposes. They currently have a total of 3209 items on this website such as images and even TONS of oral histories!! Within these subsections, you can look at all of the documents available, or you can browse for what you are specifically searching for within the four categories they outline: images, documents, oral histories, and contributed items. Unfortunately, the documents are not in alphabetical order, or in any seemingly logical order, making it a little had to use. Also, while the oral histories are great, it seems like all of them are in Spanish and they lack a Spanish transcription or an English/any other language translation. This makes it inaccessible for non-Spanish speakers.

This details the image section of the archive where you can see thumbnails and descriptions of each item.

The Teaching tab is a great tool for teachers and others who want to create lesson plans for their students! There are three available lesson plans on the website that are very diverse including using maps, photos, and primary documents to understand the Bracero program. They provide all the resources that are needed including obviously the documents in the archive, but also worksheets and grading rubrics for the outlined activity. They include lots of probing questions for the students that help them think critically about the program and the people who participated in it which is great!

These are the three less plans they offer. By clicking on each of them, you can see the extensive lesson plan along with materials and questions for your students.

The last few tabs aren’t as fun but they have some great resources! The History tab includes a selected bibliography as well as their full research bibliography for the website. These include scholarly books and articles that demonstrate their credibility in research, but also give researches a huge and great list of sources about the Bracero program. The Resource tab is also useful because it gives tutorials for how to use the website and how to add to the website’s archives and use Omeka for creating posters for the site and they give helpful tips on how to conduct an oral history interview for those who never have.

This is part of the Bracero’s bibliography to learn more about the topic

Finally, the About tab gives information about the history of the Bracero program for those unfamiliar. It’s similar to what I included at the beginning of this post, but more extensive. They also include their staff members and their backgrounds here. There is also the Partners tab which simply includes a list of their different partners that help make the site possible.

Although the site has some flaws regarding language barriers with their oral histories, this site overall is a very accessible place to gather documents regarding the Bracero program.