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The Colored Convention Project and (activist) Digital Humanities

In “Introduction: The Digital Humanities Moment”, Professor Gold talks about the ways in which digital humanists can create an alignment with activists and organizers. In that context, he mentions the Colored Conventions Project (CCP) as an example from within the digital humanities that “exemplifies how principles of collective organizing can inform both project structure and research focus” (Gold, 2019). The CCP is an impressive digital archive highlighting early black mobilization and organizing, in particular the understudied aspect of the 19th-century reform movement that is black conventions. On its website the CCP underlines its mission as a “scholarly and community research project dedicated to bringing the seven decades-long history of nineteenth century Black organizing to digital life.” Not only is the archive intended to provide information about the movement that remained invisible in popular history that highlights black agency and black leadership, it also creates a dialogue between the past and present of black organizational activism. Many of the issues that are of topic in the primary sources speak to ongoing issues like state violence and police brutality that current movements such as Black Lives Matter are focused upon. I think this really speaks the argument made in the “Digital Black Atlantic Introduction” about “the practice of re-membering a memory, and, in doing so, actively reconstructing the realities of the past [while also] linking it vitally to the present and the future” (Baker Josephs, Risam, 15).

One major interdisciplinary accomplishment of the project is its digital and interactive exhibits section. These exhibits of scholarly research are created by professors and their undergraduate or graduate students, using primary documents of the CCP’s collection to draw attention to a specific aspect of the Colored Convention movement. For instance, the graduate student Samantha de Vera built one exhibit to highlight Black women’s contributions to these conventions, which was made possible through the CCP’s effort of digitizing and transcribing not only the minutes that explicitly mention the male delegates, but newspaper articles, proceedings and other materials that document the conventions. Here, the Colored Convention Project specifically aims to include researchers, students and the public to become a part of the scholarly conversation and to produce narratives from its archival records that have been invisible in the academic and public discourse. I think this really relates to what Lisa Spiro emphasizes in her proposed values of openness  and collaboration, and also highlights the importance of “the public role of historical scholarship” (Spiro, 2012).