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Mapping Black Activism, 1700-1860

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Partially supported by a NULab Seedling Grant.

In the Age of Revolution and beyond, one of the major obstacles to Black freedom was an uneven network of state, national, and empire-level laws governing slavery. As Katherine McKittrick, Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, and Martha Jones demonstrate, this uneven legal terrain meant that Black mobility became part of how African Americans understood their relationships to place.16 Katherine McKittrick in particular, observes that Diasporan geography does not inherently follow western cartographical traditions. It may be forced to consider settler colonialist political boundaries, as well as the wages of whiteness, but it creates imagined geographies that differ from African and more broadly, Diasporan concepts of space. in defining the contours of the Black diaspora and carving out Diasporan identities. Also important are explorations of freedom and unfreedom in what she calls the “cartography of struggle.” This cartography of struggle meant evaluating landscapes for the degrees of freedom and mobility they afforded enslaved and free Africans

This project, “Mapping Black Activism, 1700-1860,” will enable scholars in several fields to explore new questions about the nature of Black resistance in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries using a novel digital framework. It brings together a growing team of interdisciplinary scholars in History, Africana Studies, Gender Studies, and Geospatial Analysis to produce, as a final output, an interactive web-based map that will be freely and publicly available. The production of a web-based interactive map of Black antislavery writings using ArcGIS with advanced filtering capabilities will allow scholars from across humanities disciplines and some social science disciplines to look at the nature of Black resistance and Black print culture and ask new questions about the role of Black women in antislavery resistance, for example. It will also offer opportunities to look not only at who appears in the archives, but in what mediums, and when and where.

Currently, the dataset for this project includes nearly 500 different Black activists who appear in archival sources in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, West Africa, and Jamaica. The NU Lab Seed grant will fund research in archives in Barbados to allow for an expansion of representation of activists from the Caribbean.

Principal Investigator

Jessica Parr, Faculty, History

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