Digital Humanities

at Michigan State University

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Conference report: Black Studies and the Digital Humanities – New Developments

I recently attended two fantastic conferences that covered a range of new and interesting scholarship and activism happening at the intersections of the Digital Humanities and the interdisciplinary Black Studies field. My research draws on developments in the digital humanities that document histories of oppression and black resistance in the African Diaspora. I presented highlights of my research on shared consciousness, social ties, and race/ethnicity before the Haitian Revolution, and how it is facilitated by digitized runaway slave advertisements from colonial Haiti, the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, and other developments in the digital humanities.

Important themes of the #Envisioning Black Digital Spaces Conference and the Digital Blackness Conference included documenting police brutality via the #BlackLivesMatter movement and other forms of online resistance; claiming online spaces to assert Black pride, critical black thought, and gender identity; using social media to forge transnational solidarity across the African Diaspora; employing the digital humanities as educational tools to engage offline communities; and developing creative media productions on internet-based platforms.

The #Envisioning Black Digital Spaces Conference at Dickinson College on April 9th featured co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter, Alicia Garza, as the keynote speaker. The Digital Blackness Conference, at Rutgers University from April 22nd-23rd, held several sessions and plenaries featuring Melissa Harris-Perry, Professor at Wake Forest University and former MSNBC correspondent; Professor Mark Anthony Neal, creator and founder of the Left of Black weekly webcast; Jessica Marie Johnson, Assistant Professor and creator of the African Diaspora, Ph.D. curated blog; Mara Brock Akil, creator of the hit television series Girlfriends and Being Mary Jane; and several other journalists, academics, and activists. The plenary sessions and keynote address were recorded and can be viewed here.

I was able to gain insight on innovative pedagogical tools such as AfroCrowd, an initiative aiming to increase the number of people of African descent who actively contribute to Wikimedia and other open source knowledge platforms. Librarians with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Wikipedians help instructors design course assignments for students and community members to do research and contribute to and/or correct Wikipedia entries on a range of topics. I’m very glad I was able to attend and share about my research and learn more about new research and teaching developments in my field.

 

Image courtesy of https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/3pcfaz/ama_the_atlantic_slave_trade_especially_human/