Excavating the Slave Experience

Project Team: Monika R. Wright, Iris Finkel, and Tristan Goodwin. Team members were students in the Digital Praxis Seminar, Spring 2018.

Project Description: The Excavating the Slave Experience (eSe) project is the visual interrogation of several networks of textual and visual historical slave records. For decades, historians and scholars have interrogated these fragmented historical records to unearth the slave experience. But like the records, only fragmented pictures appear. What if one could visually analyze large corpora of these fragmented records simultaneously? Could more meaningful or nuanced interpretations appear? These are the questions that eSe would like to help answer. Thus, the goal of eSe is to create a dynamic platform of interactive networks that would visually connect these fragmented records to allow a greater nuanced interpretation and contextualization of the slave experience.

The initial iteration of eSe, the objective of the visualizations within this site, is to excavate the slave experience through the visual interrogation of fugitive slave advertisements (print media network) within a single state. The Excavating the Slave Experience project, thus, intends to spatially and temporally map the fugitive slave advertisements that were published within North Carolina’s newspapers (captured from the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database created, in part, and hosted by the University Libraries of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). Full launch of this project will occur mid-May 2018. Future iterations of the project will gradually include dynamic interaction with other networks of historical data (for North Carolina and progressively the other states within the Union) such as the legal network (e.g., legislative enactments) and statistical network (e.g., census records).

The Excavating the Slave Experience project is being developed as a pedagogical tool for the community of researchers and learners who are interested in studying slavery within the United States. As noted above, we want to offer exposure to any trends that could lead to more nuanced studies. Therefore, as this site is being developed, please visit often and offer comments and suggestions that could help us provide a more dynamic experience for our community users.