Building the Archive of the Black Social World in Central Florida

With a post on Oscar Mack not long ago, I’m reminded how much the intersection around digital humanities and black history for my work in Florida was generative. One project often built on another to create a fuller picture of the black experience. Reflecting back now, 2013 was a pivotal year. I conducted the Oscar Mack project in my African American History class during the spring semester. I came out of the project with a sense of things left undone and honestly… failure.

At the time, I did my end of the semester diagnostic and decided a few things. First, learning outcome were met and that was good. Students in my modern African-American history class were able to move from a single newspaper headline talking about a lynching, to telling a story about who, what, where, how and why. Second, from a scholarly perspective, a lot of questions were left unanswered. Where was his body? Who killed him? What other incidents of antiblack violence where lurking under the surface?

Plenty of gray and at some level my sense of failure was based on the reality that the resources (in every sense of the word) to do more were clear to me. I came to the end of the semester with a sense that I need to build some structures to document the black experience. I turned to the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida. Working with them, we were able to do some oral histories in the summer. While I think there was an intent to use these to learn about Mack, in organized the actual interview talking with people about region through their community lens was enough. What do we know about Hannibal Square on the ground? What is the relationship to Eatonville? Talking to black residents and getting their stories into the archive was meaningful (I hoped). Many things have changed since 2013, but the basic idea of using the process of building an archive as a benchmark was a solid choice. These archival documents can serve as the foundation for a more holistic narrative of the black experience in Central Florida. There was I came to realize a nuanced black social world I needed to document. Now you know where the “BLACK SOCIAL WORLD” name comes from. No straight lines, but you get places.

From Segregation to Black Lives Matter: An African American Oral History Symposium

I was honored to present about Oscar Mack for the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program’s From Segregation to Black Lives Matter: An African American Oral History Symposium. The first symposium connected to the African-American Oral History collection at UF, this gave me a chance to re-engage with the Oscar Mack story. Since 2013 I’ve been plugging away on this project. Like everything involving the African-American experience, this project spun out of my digital humanities practice. While at Rollins College, approached the school’s commitment to community engagement through a “Classroom as Platform” approach that put students to work on community history project with the intention of cataloging, preserving, and presenting these stories through digital means. These projects often involved enhancing the scant record of the local black experience through oral history project or document research. The Oscar Mack project began in this manner and evolved as the story continued beyond the initial course. While the process has been slow, it was greatly enhanced by my time as Julian Pleasant Fellow at the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida. I partnered with the SPOHP to conduct numerous oral histories in Central Florida. My goal then was to capture those stories and add them to their collection. I had hope to create a path for future research, but naturally my knowledge of the context of the context of these stories is crucial. In the case of Oscar Mack, I realize I can use my evolving podcasting skills to tell one version of the story. This presentation gave me a change to test the podcast format and get the ball rolling. At roughly seven minute, the segment was not long, but people seem to embrace it. I can’t imagine i’m going to make 45 min episodes, but a three act structure with 7 to 8 mins per act does seem like a good format.

Stay Tuned.

Rethinking the Podcast

I was lucky enough to present at the DH@MSU Colloquium Series my presentation on "Making History: Podcasts as Digital Humanities Projects" allowed me to sketch out the logic around building a more DH centric structure around the Reframing History podcast. My central point was to consider how a podcast could be structured to make the outcome more closely aligned with DH projects. This involved thinking about the sources, process, and presentation with a mind toward the standard associated with DH project. I examined Miriam Posner’s post on reviewing and understanding DH projects and looked at the Journal of American History digital review guideline to thinking about this problem. The result is a set of goals around building the new web home for Reframing History that include transcription, resource pages and links to supplemental material.