The goal of “The Black Gotham Digital Archive” is to link an interactive web site, smart phones, and the geographical spaces of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn to create a deeper understanding of nineteenth-century black New York. The project is an extension of my book, Black Gotham: A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth-Century New York City (Yale UP, 2011), as I seek new media . . . Read More
A banner day! Today is the day I’m launching the Black Gotham Digital Archive! If you’re reading this, you can access it directly from the “The Archive” link on the left.
You’ll find pretty much everything I promised in my last blog. The main component of the digital archive consists of “Black Gotham Stories.” Currently, they’re made up of five exhibits: an introduction to my family; a short tour of some early Lower Manhattan sites; profiles of two African Free Schools of the 1820s and 1830s; portraits of men of the black elite at mid-century; and accounts of the fate of black New Yorkers during the 1863 draft riots. Each exhibit contains a series of pages that describe people and events; show images you can click on for more detailed information; provide direct links to documents culled from the archives—obituaries, newspaper articles, etc.—where nineteenth-century voices truly come to life, as well as links to online primary and secondary book sources. In addition to the exhibits, there’s also an archive you can browse for many more images and information about them.
Here’s what you won’t yet find: interactive maps that will provide a much better sense of Gotham in the pre Civil War period—of where black Gothamites lived, worked, shopped, did errands, and enjoyed places of amusement. The plan is to use the University of Virginia’s “Neatline” platform to display a series of historical maps that will chart the movements of black New Yorkers as they traveled through the city, but Neatline is not scheduled to launch until later this summer on July 2.
In the meantime, I will continue adding more exhibits and pages to “Black Gotham Stories.” There’s so much more I want to share: for example, stories about white New Yorkers who interacted on a regular basis with blacks; about the literary and cultural activities of the black elite; about their political activism, most especially their work on the Underground Railroad, and the inevitable white backlash; and of course about the role black women played in all of these events. There’s also so much more to say about each story that’s already there, so much so that I hope that each of my historical actors will eventually have an exhibit of his/her own.
My special thanks go to three MITH staffers without whom this launch would not be possible: Amanda Visconti, who worked on the technical aspects of the site; Kirsten Keister, who did the design; and Seth Denbo, who helped me with the content and structure of “Black Gotham Stories.”
So please write in with feedback and comments on my new venture. And please start thinking about how you might eventually contribute a nineteenth-century Black Gotham family story of your own!