Recounting Evidence in African American Digital Studies

A workshop, 1:45 - 4:45 PM, January 6, 2018 at Studio@Butler

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About the Workshop

Scholars of African American experiences have long insisted that we shift perceptions about evidentiary privilege. Now, in tapping historical and contemporary humanities data, how do notions about evidence and recovery change when we reconsider what gets labeled “absent” or “present?” What are the advantages of meaning-making at the margins? From Colored Conventions to Ida B. Wells to the recent #SayHerName movement, subjects and figures once considered invisible are now core to varied approaches to studying the intersection of race, class, and gender.

Building on models in the field, this workshop aims to foster a community of scholars interested in developing digital projects in African American studies. We will do so by igniting a conversation about evidence and data that challenges popular ideas about obscurity and ubiquity connected to Black intellectual enterprises. Along the way, participants will also learn about practices in data curation, mapping, and text analysis.

Join us as we gather at the Studio@Butler to examine three case studies. No previous experience in digital humanities is needed, but those with digital humanities experience at any level are welcomed.

In this workshop participants will take up the questions about how digital methods can extend or reconstruct the ways that we have thought about, collected, and analyzed evidence. How do we interpret graphs, maps, and more to situate them within larger critical conversations about identity, technology, and evidentiary privilege, thereby transforming African American cultural studies as well as digital humanities?

The workshop will be led by an interdisciplinary collective focused on nurturing and exploring humanist approaches to the documentation, preservation, and interpretation of African American history and culture.

Initial collaborators include:

Thanks to our partners at Columbia University:

Register for the workshop

When and Where

1:45 - 4:45 PM, January 6, 2018
208b Butler Library
Columbia University
Butler Library 535 West 114th St.
New York, NY 10027

About the Case Studies

The first case study investigates 19th century geographic data mapped in 21st century GIS applications and considers how modern technology obstructs and distorts data while visualizing while also providing a secondary perspective. This particular dataset is geographic data of lynching victims text mined from 19th century investigative reporter, Ida B. Wells’s second anti-lynching pamphlet, A Red Record. A Red Record documents tabulations of lynchings from two years: 1893 and 1894. This case study will discuss the numerous layers between the user and the data, how digital methodologies of space and place may recreate an opportunity for the public consumption of Black death, and how can we avoid revictimization in datasets of violence and anguish. Materials available at:

Equality Before the Law: California Black Convention Activism, 1855–1865

Dataset - Index of delegates to California Colored Conventions

The second case study unpacks 19th-century Black activist-intellectuals’ debates in numbers at the nexus of protest, labor and gender. Together, we’ll consider data drawn from two stand-out Colored Conventions held on both coasts of the US—in California and in Washington, D.C.—during the decade encompassing the American Civil War. Materials are available at:

The third case study explores the way people on Twitter used the #SayHerName hashtag to “raise awareness for black female victims of police brutality and anti-Black violence in the United States.” How does a social media platform help change notions of evidence? How does treating the social media stream as evidence allow for new interpretations of the interplay between activism and state-sanctioned violence? For this workshop, we will approach the data (approximately 400,000 tweets collected between January and October 2016) as textual evidence that we can “mine,” attending to the affordances and dangers of such methods. Materials available at:

About the Workshop Leaders

Sarah Lynn Patterson teaches African American literature in the English department at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She specializes in 19th-century African American literature, women writers, Black print culture, gender and morality studies and digital humanities.

Jim Casey is a Perkins Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University. He is a co-founder and national co-director of the Colored Conventions Project. His research on the history of editors and his digital practices engage questions of collaboration, access, and collective expression.

Caitlin Pollock is the Digital Humanities and Africana Studies librarian at IUPUI University Library Center for Digital Scholarship. Her research interests include the role of librarians in digital humanities research and pedagogy, Black digital humanities, and 19th century African American female activists.

Katie Rawson is the Humanities Librarian for English at Emory University. Her research explores how people build and share knowledge by tackling questions about texture in humanities data, possibilities and limits in computational text analysis, processes of collaborative making, and sensory ways of knowing.

Trevor Muñoz is the Interim Director of the Maryland Institute for Technology (MITH), Assistant Dean for Digital Humanities Research at the University of Maryland Libraries, and a co-PI of African American History, Culture and Digital Humanities (AADHum) initiative. His research interests include humanities approaches to data curation and the design and sustainability of interdisciplinary research collaborations.