some of us are brave
Today my twitter-league, Rhonda Ragsdale, launched the public interface of her research agenda on historic black towns. It’s a wonderful project that may be of particular interest to my many folks in digital humanities.
What Rhonda says about the project:
Historically black towns established after the Civil War and Reconstruction have been examined by scholars such a Nell Painter, Kenneth Hamilton, and Norman Crockett. Many have viewed these communities as failed experiments or insignificant in the larger picture of African American migration or U.S. history in general. However, the industrious people who founded self-segregated, autonomous towns across the United States used migration and town building to resist racial oppression throughout all eras of American history. Black activists and dissidents, since the Colonial Era, participated in town building efforts to craft a legacy that continues to thrive today. After the failure of Reconstruction in 1877, these towns became part of a formal social movement to ensure safety and provide opportunities for black and multi-racial families. In addition, self-segregation proved to be an effective, albeit short-term method of resistance to oppression. Former slaves, freed-people, and especially African American southerners responded to racist conditions in varied ways that were often defined by the resources available to them. Through these alternative means of resistance, black town residents were able to assert their own ideas of race and southern traditions and contribute to the industrialization and urbanization of the American West.
This website is an effort to preserve and promote the continued study of these crucial, and sometimes forgotten, stories from America’s past. We invite you to browse our Black Towns Index (categorized by state and town) and explore the history of these important town building efforts. This site is still under construction, but the complete list of towns by state is available to browse. The Black Towns Project will continue to add information and town histories, and invites those who do not see a town on the list to submit it through our Submit a Black Town page. If you would like to moderate a black town page, please visit our Moderate a Black Town’s Page to sign-up.
Some wonderful ways to engage this website, off the top of my head:
- I’m thinking of a middle school history teachers who have taught “I Have A Dream” about as many ways as possible who think their charges deserve a little more depth. How about a wiki project where the kids get to upload images, stories, and multi-media projects about one of the black towns? Explore the topography and geography for great curriculum integration with a science class. Creative writing segments to explore historical narratives?
- Your high school students can go any further. Examine the material resources of geographic regions where black towns evolved to discuss how trade, economies develop. Explore the political structures and social roles in black towns and compare them to contemporary border towns and ethnic enclaves. Talk about immigration, migration and identity across time and space.
- College profs, Prof. Ragsdale might even be inclined to let a class moderate a black town page. I have no idea but I’d ask her if I was you. Also, employ some historic data and the GPS software in your computer labs to model black towns, migration patterns, and use data in a meaningful way.
Again, just some ideas. Me? I’ll just be reading it! That works, too.