Taking Stock

This will be one of my last blog entries prior to the launch of the Black Gotham Digital Archive so it seems like an appropriate moment for me to step back and take stock of all things Black Gotham.

Looking back. By my count, since the publication of Black Gotham in February 2011 I’ve given some forty-five book talks with three more scheduled for this spring. I’ve spoken in venues as varied as bookstores, museums, historical societies, libraries, academic conferences, college campuses, genealogical societies, churches, and in front of audiences as diverse as scholars in the field, the general public, genealogists, and students from junior high to college. If you’ve missed any of these talks, you can always catch them on YouTube.

In addition, I’ve given several radio interviews ranging from NPR’s Leonard Lopate show in New York to black talk radio covering all regions of the country—Dallas in the South, Madison in the Midwest, California and Oregon in the far West.  I’ve even done some interviews for local New York TV, interviewed by some of my favorite media guys, Sam Roberts at NYC Channel 1 and Brian Lehrer at CUNY TV, Channel 75. I never seem to tire of talking about Black Gotham!

Beyond talking about the book, I’ve also continued writing about it.  I did two essays for the New York Times online series about the Civil War (“Dr. Smith’s Back Room” and “What Were the Women Doing?“) as well as a Q & A for the New York Times online “City Room.” All these pieces build upon ideas first broached in the book.

Finally, look out for the forthcoming NEH Humanities Magazine.  You’ll find another Q & A in it.

All this work has been well worth it since Black Gotham has just won the 2011 New York Society Library Award for History!

Looking forward. The Black Gotham Digital Archive launch is scheduled for May 20! That date is just around the corner but I feel there’s still so much left to do. Omeka is a lot trickier that it first appears. You can’t imagine how much work goes into creating a website that’s user-friendly. Behind every clickable icon, image, word there’s an enormous amount of trial and error going on.

I won’t give too much away, just enough to whet your appetite. I hope to have five exhibits to show: the first introduces users to my family; the second tours a few early Lower Manhattan places; the third invites users into two African Free Schools of the 1820s and 1830s; the fourth portrays members of the black elite at mid-century; and the fifth examines the fate of family members and their friends during the draft riots. You’ll find a lot more images in these digital exhibits than in the book as well as links to select archival documents where the nineteenth-century voice leaps at you right off the page and links to primary and secondary source books that are now online. With the digital archive, you won’t have to check the index and then shuffle back and forth among pages spread far apart. Just click and you’ll get a new item and information about it.  Enjoy!


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