Gold and Chains: Reckoning with Slavery and Racism in California

Black miner during Gold Rush era. Credit: Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California

Most of the prominent clichés when discussing California portray the state as the golden land of Hollywood, beaches or a liberal state of vegans and free thinkers. To be fair, California’s campaign to right past wrongs has produced noteworthy successes. For example, marijuana has been legal for years and many people jailed for marijuana offenses have been set free with clean records. However, under its golden exterior, it’s a state mired in contradiction.  California has a record of enslavement and racial hierarchy. Worse still, those “great men” of California who denied freedom and equality to others remain exalted as iconic and heroic by California’s official institutions.  In this new historical moment, let us champion those who demand a reckoning with slavery, long-overdue and much-needed to redeem this “golden” state still marred by its legacy of enslavement.

California was brought into the United States as a “free” state in 1850 and even though the state’s official stance was anti-slavery, slavery persisted for years for African Americans and Native Americans. What was supposed to be a land full of riches left many destitute, especially the people already living on the land when it was “discovered” by Europeans and early American settlers.

When gold was found in 1849, California was inundated with newcomers hoping to strike it rich. One of these men was white man from Mississippi named Charles Perkins. He arrived in California with his three slaves; Carter Perkins, Robert Perkins and Sandy Jones. After a short time, Charles decided to head back to the South, leaving the slaves in the care of a friend but promising the trio freedom if they worked for a few more months. They were freed November 1951 and swiftly established a successful mining business. Their future looked bright. Even though Charles Perkins did not provide paperwork granting them freedom, men assumed their freedom was guaranteed because California outlawed slavery in 1850. However, California passed a Fugitive Slave Act in 1852 declaring slaves arriving before 1850 were still property of their prior owner. In April 1852, Charles Perkins’ first cousin, Green Perkins broke into the men’s cabin while they were sleeping, tied them up and hauled them in a wagon to Sacramento. The trio hired a lawyer who argued that their detainment was unconstitutional, but no justice was to be found in court. The group eventually escaped while being deported to Mississippi. Many other African Americans would find themselves in the same predicament of fighting for their freedom in the courts. Five years later in 1857, the US Supreme Court, speaking as the supreme authority in America as a whole, declared, “the negro has no rights which the white man is bound to respect, and the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.”

African Americans were not alone in suffering under Californian “freedom.” The indigenous population of California suffered under the Spanish as well as the Americans. Native American slavery in California dates to the early 1800s when Franciscan missionaries established Missions along the Pacific coast. Max Mazzetti from the Rincon Reservation recalled a story he heard about Mission San Luis Rey,

“The Father there had Spaniards working the Indians as slaves there, and when they ran away, the Spaniards would come to Rincon and get the babies, swinging them by the arm or leg and toss them into the cactus…while the babies were crying, the Spaniards would make the parents tell where the Indians were hiding…those who had run away from the mission.”

California issued this official resolution prior to being granted statehood: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, unless for punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in this State.” It echoes the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865. Likewise, just as the 13th Amendment ushered in laws on vagrancy, and other minor offenses at the cost of freedom to African Americans, California passed the Act for Government and Protection of Indians. The act made it legal for white Americans to enslave Native Americans charged with loitering or public drinking. At the same time, it was a common practice for local ranchers and vineyard owners to pay their indigenous workers with wine. Lawmen routinely inspected the ranches to round up intoxicated Native Americans. The natives were later bailed out at auctions and forced to work off the newly incurred debt in a system similar to convict-leasing in the Jim Crow south.

The man who signed the Act for Government and Protection of Indians was Peter Hardeman Burnett, California’s first elected governor when it became a state. While not well known outside of California, he was recently rebuked by current governor, Gavin Newsome for his countless atrocities against Native Americans. Burnett envisioned a western frontier with no Native Americans, or blacks or Chinese. He predicted to the 1851 Legislature, “That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected …” He oversaw the massacre of hundreds of innocent Pomo tribe members in an event known as the Bloody Island Massacre in 1850. Owing in part to his desire to pass a violent exclusionary law against African Americans and to his overall poor leadership, his tenure as governor lasted only one year, but he was still elected to the California Supreme Court in 1857 because racism in America is rarely a deal breaker.

Peter Burnett  along with John Sutter helped establish the city of Sacramento. John Sutter is another exalted person in California history whose past is bloodied by the atrocities for which he is responsible. He is well known for establishing Sutter’s Fort, which was a haven for white Americans traveling to the California territory and it was on his land that gold was found ushering in the Gold Rush in 1849. Several state-sanctioned sites to this day sing his praises as a pioneer and a hospitable, charitable gentleman. However, the indigenous community bears witness to Sutter’s crimes against humanity. There  are countless accounts of how he mistreated his Native American slaves, kidnapping, rape, and one account of keeping a native woman bound by her nose ring to a post. Even when California became a state, there was a law that forbade Native Americans, African Americans and mulattoes from testifying against white men, dooming them to suffer in silence without legal recourse. For years, there has been an outcry from the Californian Native American community about John Sutter’s mistreatment of his indigenous workers, yet he remains an honored forefather in the California pantheon.

Some progress has been made on reckoning with Sutter’s atrocities. On June 15, 2020, the John Sutter statue was removed from the Sutter Medical Center in Sacramento, California and more removals of his name are on the horizon. It was one of countless statues or monuments removed as the United States began to publicly acknowledge how its past has shaped its present. In this manner, California can be seen as a microcosm of America.

Yet monuments to racist figures remain prominent in California even as others fall. In June 2015, the city of Sacramento erected an 8-foot tall statue of Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan became governor of California after his career in Hollywood. During his campaign for governor in 1966, he denounced the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He referred to the urban areas where African Americans lived as “jungles.” Recently, a recording of his talking to Richard Nixon reveals his reference to African Americans as “monkeys.” He also supported discriminatory housing policies saying, “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes in the sale or renting of his property, it is his right to do so.” Once he decided to run for president, he coined the slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again” longing for the days before the Civil Rights Act. While president, he attempted to dilute the Voting Rights Act and attempted to abolish affirmative action. His refusal to disavow apartheid in South Africa, led Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu to declare he is “a racist, pure and simple.” Despite this, California decided to erect a statue in his honor in the state capitol building. The statue ironically replaced a statue of Christopher Columbus, the forefather of genocide in the Americas.

California has started making strides in decolonizing its history. School names are changing, and monuments are being removed all over the state as indigenous voices are being heard. In his farewell address to the nation, Reagan called America a “shining city on a hill” invoking the voice of writer and pilgrim, John Winthrop  discussing America as a beacon for freedom. What Reagan ignored is that Winthrop, author of A Model of Christian Charity owned at least one Native American slave taken during the Pequot War  of 1636–37. Perhaps a better farewell-cum-rallying cry that harks back to California history is Shakespeare’s “All that glitters is not gold.” However, the golden state that honors slaveholders and a racist former president as native sons can now pride itself on its native daughter and celebrate our new Black/South-Asian and first female Vice President of the United States of America. Kamala Harris represents California unchained.


“Involuntary Servitude Apprenticeship and Slavery of Native Americans in California « California Indian History.” n.d. Accessed November 11, 2020.

“Sutter Health Removes John Sutter Statue Amid Complaints About Racist History – Capradio.Org.” n.d. Accessed November 11, 2020.

Wee | @ewee, Dogmo Studios | Eliza. 2018. “About – Gold Chains: The Hidden History of Slavery in California | ACLU NorCal.” ACLU of Northern CA. June 28, 2018.

Using Coschedule to Manage Social Media

I always thought that successful social media managers were GLUED to their screens, but I committed to taking some time this summer to create a better social media strategy for our Public History program, and realized this is not necessarily true! I signed up for Kim Jimenez’s Content Calendar System course and realized how I could start recycling some content more efficiently and how tools like Coschedule could help me do that.

Coschedule provides a blog and social media driven tool for planning and releasing content to the world. I signed up for a trial, and, in an hour, I was able to create a week’s worth of content to distribute to our facebook, instagram, and twitter accounts, and, because it’s so easy, I even set up a linkedin page for our program. Once I get the hang of this, I’ll be able to create a month’s worth of content in a few hours.

Coschedule Calendar View

I love the visual display of the calendar — it pulls up my planned content for the week. I also have a grad student working to share current events posts on twitter and Facebook, and Coschedule even pulls in these posts after they’re shared directly through those platforms.

A few features I love:

  • I can let it choose the best times of the day to post based on analytics, which also means that it distributes the posts throughout the day across the different social media platforms, so they don’t all blast out at once.
  • Quite frequently, I use my email inbox as a holding platform for potential social media posts, but now I can schedule a post for the future and archive that email.
  • We also could make better use of recurrent posts about the programs that we offer. Coschedule allows me to set up this content recycling process which takes one more thing off my mental load!
  • I can create one social media cost for four different platforms. After saving it, I can go in and tweak it for each platform – shortening it for twitter, adding tags into different platforms for different entities discussed in the post, etc.
  • Everything is drag-and-droppable like a calendar or Trello board, so you can move posts between days or if you need to reschedule, you can drag them over to an ideas board.

One great feature that I haven’t experimented with yet is the Social Media campaign feature. This allows you to easily take one piece of content and generate multiple social media posts using that same content. This would work great for events announcements – automating reminders posting to social media.

Social Media Campaign view allows you to set recurring posts related to a single item.

Coschedule also has some amazing features to integrate with WordPress blogs. You can edit your blog posts in Coschedule or in WordPress and set when you want Coschedule to release them. 

The only thing I’ve found so far that’s less than perfect is the instagram posting. To post on instagram, it sends a push notification on your phone and you must open instagram and click new post. It adds your image for you and then you do a long-press to paste in the text for you post. It’s not entirely convenient but made as easy as possible.

Overall, I’m really excited about this tool. I’ve tried the free version of Hootsuite before, but always had found it limiting. Coschedule is affordable and extremely user-friendly, and I’m really hopeful that it will meet my needs. They even have a three-week free trial period, so there’s no harm in giving Coschedule a try!

Danger of COVID Conspiracy Theories

The internet is full of conspiracy theories. Some of these include theories like NASA faking the moon landing and the government hiding aliens at Area 51. Maybe you heard rumors that the Earth is flat, and scientists are covering up the “truth.” Most theories floating around are benign, but in this Age of Information, some of these ideas can become dangerous when left unchecked. Currently, the world is wrestling with the COVID-19 virus pandemic and conspiracy theories about the situation have flooded social media timelines for months. Misinformation is its own form of pandemic.

Some of the theories are funny and who doesn’t need a laugh during this time of social distancing and isolation? The funniest ideas I read were Disney+ releasing just in time to capitalize on the virus (they may be on to something though), and that you can use vodka as hand sanitizer. I also saw rumors that garlic can cure COVID-19 and the virus possibly arrived from space. On my timelines I even saw memes and posts saying that African Americans were immune to the virus which is ludicrous. Have you heard the one that 5G towers are causing the spread of the virus? More on that one later.

Initially, Americans didn’t take the virus seriously, and some still don’t. Movies about pandemics like 28 Days Later and Contagion were trending that first week of “social distancing” and countless Coronavirus memes were being shared across the country. There is an inherent danger of entertainment becoming reality when consuming unchecked information nonstop the way we do in 2020. I’m reminded of an autumn night in 1938 when the War of the Worlds broadcast caused a brief panic to the few people who missed the segment of the broadcast which stated it was meant to be entertainment. Memes, social media and many of the conspiracy theories out there should provide such disclaimers.

Unchecked conspiracy theories can have consequences. There were over 980 cases of measles in the United States in 2019. Measles, a disease declared eradicated in the country had a sudden resurgence. This resurgence was caused partly by so-called “anti-vaxxers” who embraced the theory that vaccines cause autism. The movement grew and parents started to withhold or avoid the MMR vaccinations that prevent measles. In this case, unverified information led to the spread of a disease Americans believed to be a thing of the past.

In the month of April, over fifty 5G towers were attacked and set on fire by vandals in the United Kingdom. One attack forced the evacuation of a housing development near the tower forcing the quarantined citizens into the street. The theory that COVID-19 doesn’t exist and the newly built 5G towers are linked to the spread of COVID-19 motivated these attacks. The theories insist that people are becoming sick from the radiation these towers emit. There is no science to support this, but the idea has been propagated by radical social media groups and even a few celebrities on their quest to #staywoke. It is amazing to see how many people believe information on radio waves, frequencies and advanced science from people who barely understand the workings of their iPhones. Conspiracy theories aren’t going anywhere and some even will have nuggets of truth but before you embrace their ideas, research and think for yourself. Ensure you’re truly awake.

Social Media and Museums

Instagram for Museums Posted by Digital Pathways.

Social Media for Museums: An Overview Posted by Digital Pathways. 

Should Museums Have a Personality By Russell Dornan.

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags in 2020 By Benjamin Chacon. 

This week’s readings provided a guide for strategizing how to transfer a museum’s image onto social media platforms. These authors interpret ‘image’ as a museum’s mission, the culture of the institution. With a focus on Instagram, these articles collectively offer a multilayered introduction to the many advantages of branding your organization on this platform. These readings brought forth some of the most fundamental lessons in public history in extending the ethics of traditional methods of community outreach, networking within the profession, and producing original work. Furthermore, these readings also capture the importance of using the platform to strengthen interpersonal relationships between the museum and the people they serve.

Instagram for Museums and Social Media for Museums: An Overview, both published on Digital Pathways (unknown individual author) serve as a more general overview for museum employees in taking the first step of starting an Instagram page. I felt that the objective of these two articles were to persuade museum employees to take the first step of signing up on this platforms. By breaking down Instagram’s usability and promotional advantages, these articles highlight Instagram as a simple, accessible, and effective tool for growing a museum’s community. ‘Community’ refers to the professional and local community of which museums are situated in. One thing that I really like from Social Media for Museums: An Overview is the attention to audience and inclusivity. I think it’s important to highlight the history of exclusion of certain demographic groups, and to recognize the outreach that could be achieved through social media. 

Russell Dornan’s Should Museums Have a Personality and Benjamin Chacon’s The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Hashtags in 2020 provide more minute details for maintaining your museum’s Instagram profile. Dornan, I feel, focuses more on the creativity aspect of producing content and writing captions across various social media platforms. I think this article serves as a lesson in consistency and appropriate language. Two very important factors in conducting public history that are applicable to digital platforms. Chacon’s article, on the other hand, is a more analytical approach to using Instagram to grow your following. Chacon offers probably  the most ‘advanced’ or in depth approach to growing your following, and keeping track of your museum’s social media activity. I really like how Chacon pulls back the curtain of average Instagram posts and captions to dissect how to take advantage of Instagram’s algorithm. Both of these authors do a very good job at providing an example of each of their methods. These authors provide readers with a new perspective to the simplest functions by sharing their approach for using the most common features across social media (Twitter threads, the explore page, hashtags, etc). I think this makes readers feel that they too can maintain an effective profile. 

I really like how all four authors stress that social media is not just about marketing. Each article highlights that maintaining an element of ‘fun’ in effort to ‘humanize’ museums, and maintain memorable social media presence. Each article recognizes that there are actual people behind the accounts that follow, or could potentially follow, the museum. While social media is great for establishing first impressions, this activity should continue this effort with real world interactions.

Navigating the Green Book

Navigating the Green Book. Created and maintained by NYPL Labs. Reviewed February 17, 2020

Covers of different Green Books highlighted on the site

Navigating the Green Book is an interactive project by NYPL labs that targets Americans-especially those interested in African American history. The goal of the site is to invite people to learn and experience in a small way a part of African American history through the use of Green Books. Green Books were travel guides directing African American travelers to safe locations to rest, obtain gas, shop and eat as they traversed the dangerous American roads between 1936 and 1966. The site wants the viewers to engage the data they are sharing and place yourself in the shoes of a black traveler in the 1930s or 1950s. They want you to think of all that places you can go and all the places that are inaccessible based on the color of your skin. The site also encourages you plan a virtual trip with the Green Book as your guide.

Navigating the Green Book has a simple interface. The home screen describes what the project is and what their goals are. There are two tabs you can press from this main screen. Clicking the “View the Map” tab will show the entire data-set of places NYPL has scanned from the pages of Green Books. The other tab invites guests to “Map a Trip.” When using this feature, guests choose a starting point and destination. Then a GPS-like map appears and you can see what roads you need to take and what places are available to you along your trip. It is a well-done feature that shows you what sections of America a black person might want to avoid. The map has an interactive icon indicating if a place is a bar, hotel or restaurant. It’s fascinating to note that some places of rest are not actually hotels but people who opened their homes to travelers. Clicking on the links provides additional information about the place and links you to the actual Green Book that a particular listing was scanned from. You can also decide what year you are traveling in and based on that, the site will have different available places to stop along your virtual trip.

If you do not want to plan a trip you are encouraged to click the “View the Map” tab. This takes you to a map of the United States and shows 796 locations that NYPL has currently uploaded. This feature highlights the locations of interest through a cluster of points spread over a given area or you can view the places through a heatmap. This shows a general area where more resources would be available to the African American traveler. This view only shows Green Book data from 1947.

The site notes they are still digitizing Green Books and invites visitors to check out the digitized data from at least 21 Green Books so far. The site uses the simplest of images, but they are effective. The site has the benefit of working from a smart phone. The site could provide more contextualization in explaining the necessity of the Green Book but the site chose to focus on exploring the words alone from the Green Books and I think it is a valuable experience. Navigating the Green Book offers a glimpse into a part of African American history that is not often discussed in classrooms. I would recommend that any one with an interest in history check out the site and see where the Green Book can take you.

Digital Review: Performing Archive: Curtis + “the vanishing race”

Screen capture of Performing Archive: Curtis + “the vanishing race,” taken 2020

Performing Archive: Curtis + “the vanishing race”. Created and maintained by Claremont Center for Digital Humanities. Reviewed February 2020.

The Performing Archive: Curtis + “the vanishing race” project emerged in 2018 with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This project serves as a digital archive for the photographic works of Edward S. Curtis, and as a virtual exhibit space for work that responds to Curtis’ exploitation of Native American tribes. This interpretive work questions concepts of permission and consent for the Native peoples in question and serves as a meta commentary on the digital humanities.

The site features over 2,500 digitized archival items from seven institutions. Users can search these items using keywords or use the site’s visualization tool to explore how items interconnect with one another. These tools are immediately accessible, but the site’s layout encourages users to read the “Introduction” page before embarking on their personalized journey. The “Introduction” page gives an overview of the project’s background and goals, then details how to use the site most effectively. While you can search at any time, there are “paths” that lead to different items and exhibits. The user is put on a pre-set path through a few exhibits, putting the most critical and contextual work first. By clicking on the links inside the exhibit texts, the user can deviate from the set path to explore new items and interpretive pieces. This method exploration allows the user to dive a bit deeper into the incredible volume of content available within this project.

This site’s content is extensive because the creators have allowed the public to contribute their research and interpretation of Curtis’ work using a review process to control what occupies their site. These interpretive pieces can be found using the visualization tool and the search bar, leading to topics from YouTube to Curtis’ conceptions of race. If a user isn’t quite ready to publish their own research, they can use the comments function to give feedback and input without investing as much time as engaging in original research. In these ways, the project welcomes all people to become a part of this project. The site also features resources for working with Native stakeholders, and plans to contact Native peoples for future work, emphasizing the need for their input and consent in projects dealing in Native history. By showing their practices clearly, the project welcomes Native users, reassuring them that while Curtis was exploitative, modern creators and historians can and should be better. This project certainly acheives these goals.

Performing Archive: Curtis + “the vanishing race” is completely transparent in their methodology, which preserves the trustworthy image of this initiative. The design and methods are incredibly strong, with the only drawback to the site being the visualization tool’s loading time, which at worst can take over a minute. The user can choose how they want to interact and contribute, which is a huge plus for engagement. This type of project has no equivalent in the physical world, making use of online tools for increased engagement and thoughtful interpretation. Performing Archive: Curtis + “the vanishing race” serves as proof of what Digital Humanities at its best is capable of.

Keep the Pulse. The One Orlando Collection Review

Keep the Pulse. The One Orland Collection The Orange County Regional History Center, February 17, 2020

Keep the Pulse is a digital gallery honoring the victims and survivors of the June 12, 2016 mass murder at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The home page provides us with an image of a vigil with brief text describing the digital library and asking the site’s visitors to #Rememberthe49. Its imagery and sparse description is impactful, setting the tone for the rest of the website. If you scroll down, more information is provided, including the victims and their names, and access to the digital library, which commemorates the lives of the victims, as well as the LGBTQIA+ community coming together to mourn and rise up. The rest of the homepage provides information on the conservation process and how one can connect on social media, volunteer, or donate. Keep the Pulse is a heartfelt tribute to the victims and survivors of June 12, 2016 that inspires visitors to reflect and support the community of Orlando.

The Homepage to “Keep the Pulse.” sets a somber and reflective tone.

When arriving to the homepage of Keep the Pulse and seeing the photo of the vigil, visitors to the site will notice the care and reverence taken to make the digital gallery a place for reflection and respect. The name of the gallery is located on the top left of the homepage in white serif font with the colors of the LGBTQIA+ flag running vertically to its left side. The title is modestly sized, giving up most of the screen to the photo of the vigil outside Pulse nightclub. In a transparent text box is the headline: #Rememberthe49. Below it is a brief description of the digital gallery and the curators. Giving the photograph of the vigil space provides visitors with a moment of reflection, as well as setting the tone for the rest of the site. On the top right of the screen is the menu bar. Right below it is the option to view the sight in Spanish. The Spanish option is an important act of inclusivity. Most of the victims of June 12 were Latinx, making the incident one that affected both the Latinx and LGBTQIA+ communities and all the intersectionalities in between. Scrolling down, the site provides access to the digital library and images of the 49 victims.

The ‘About Page’ on Keep the Pulse provides a brief description about the incident at Pulse Nightclub and shares photos of the 49 victims of that tragic night.

Scrolling down the page, the digital library provides images of the 49 victims. The highlighted image provides the name of the victim. It is here that I have my only critique of the website. I wish there were a brief bio about the victim or anecdotes written by found or biological families. I would also prefer that each image provide links to other artifacts in the digital library that are connected to the specific victim. There are several links that provide access to the digital gallery, where one can view all the artifacts or filter by category or by victim. I like the options for filtering, but people who aren’t part of the queer Orlando community may not know the victims personally. The filtering option only provides names. I would suggest providing images as well. Providing a face to the name when looking through the artifacts would humanize the experience further. After looking through the gallery, there are links that provide further information on the project, or next steps visitors would want to take.

Visitors to the Keep the Pulse digital gallery have the option to take further actions after reflecting on the events of June 12, 2016. For further information on the website’s construction, the Orange County Regional History Center provides a summation of how the gallery came to be. There isn’t a page about their ethical approach, which I feel is missing, but the site does contact information in case visitors have further questions. The digital gallery also invites people to share their reflections on social media with #Rememberthe49. The site provides suggestions, events, general information about nonprofits, and frequently asked questions. The people behind the site have considered various site visitors and provide information that will help people contribute as much, or as little, as they can.

Keep the Pulse has remained active and it appears it will continue to be active as we enter the fourth anniversary of the tragedy at Pulse Nightclub. This digital history is preserving the events of June 12th so that it won’t be soon forgotten. The site is easily navigable and provides a sense of reflection and reverence that the victims deserve. Visitors to the site can honor the victims by looking through the gallery, or taking further action, depending on their resources. The site stresses acts of love and kindness, and this digital gallery is emblematic of that notion.

Digital Review: Musical Passage

Courtesy of Musical Passage.Org

Musical Passage. Created by Laurent Dubois, David Garner, and Mary Caton Lingold. Reviewed February 16, 2020.

The Musical Passage is a digital project that offers a musical transcription of early African diasporic music by enslaved Africans undertaken by slave ships to the West Indies during the Atlantic slave trade. The site also presents historical information relating to the Middle Passage as it simultaneously entwines the musical reference to the narrative. The project gives an interpretation of a rare artifact obtained by Hans Sloane’s 1707 Voyage to the Islands of Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers, and Jamaica containing musical pieces during this historical period. The Musical Passage offers audio renditions aimed at reconstructing the sound, rhythm, and musical composition and arrangement to these early musical masterpieces. The focus resides in decoding and dissecting five musical pieces of which differ in musical style, arrangement, and tempo. Additionally, each piece of music whether instrumental or vocal gives a supplementary perception of the backstory of the songs and a conception of the instruments used at the time.

The home page of the site opens with a digital image along with metadata of Hans Sloane’s document which contains the earliest transcription of African Caribbean music as Sloane interpreted and invites the visitor to listen to the musical arrangements by clicking on the play icon. The music incorporates ambient sound of the ocean tide as the music plays giving the audience a feeling of Caribbean ambience. Users can navigate three options near the play icon which include tabs explore, read, and about. Clicking on the explore tab does not bring about additional information. As a matter of fact, nothing changes on the home page when clicking the exploration tab. Secondly, clicking the read tab will allow the user to navigate through a digital design similar to ArcGIS StoryMaps using HTML5, CSS, and libraries jQuery, Bootstrap, and FullPage.js.

The read option allows for three portions of extensive informative history concerning Han Sloane’s artifact, a book entitled Voyage to the Islands, the Middle Passage, and the history of five pieces of seventeenth century sheet music.The first portion describes how Sloane traveled to the Caribbean, specifically Jamaica, and observed the cultural practices of the enslaved African population in addition to his study of the island’s ecology. During Sloane’s time in Jamaica, he cataloged plants and animals on the island while collecting cultural artifacts and scientific specimen which can now be seen at the British Museum. The second portion is comprised of historical content of the Middle Passage and its effects on enslaved Africans. The passage depicts the cultural influence brought from their native Africa to include practices, rituals, customs, and music which influences present day vocal and instrumental sounds attached to the expression of emotion.

Finally, the third portion contextualizes the history, musical notation, engravings of some of the earliest depictions of instruments, and the song interpretation of each musical piece. The selection clarifies that the rendition of the music is by the project’s inference as it is difficult to know the precision of what the music originally sounded like. The passage invites their users to contribute their own musical interpretations for the purpose of inspiring future improvisations. Furthermore, towards the end of the narration, there is a solitary assessment of the five musical compositions illustrating differences in notation, melody, musical scale, vocal pattern, and lyric analysis. The metadata includes an image of Hans Sloane, natural history engravings of mollusk shells from his book, an engraving of three instruments he collected (no longer in existence), and five images of one bar of music for Angola, Papa, Koromanti 1, Koromanti 2, and Koromanti 3.

The about tab redirects the user to learn more about the project, its mission, project design details, musical responses to the project, collaborations, biographical information on the project’s creators, acknowledgments, a digital humanities bibliography, and further readings. The page is very detailed in its mission for the project in addition to the remaining about topics. Moreover, the project encourages its users to give feedback on their efforts or contribute further interpretations on the musical material. It cites forms of contact through twitter, their website, or through email. It also recommends that the user stream the recordings through Soundcloud. The musical response paragraph intrigued me the most as it provided additional metadata through the use of YouTube to show a video of a group of musicians invited by the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston to give a live improvisation of this music in front of an audience.

All things considered; the digital project Musical Passage is a great project! It was enjoyable learning about the inception of music and its origins considering the influences it provides to the evolution of music as it exists today. It rooted from unfortunate events by way of the Middle Passage and yet through so much pain and suffering, enslaved Africans were able to create and beautify the art of music as a form of storytelling. The diffusion of their African culture and traditions using music immortalized their place as trail blazers and pioneers of musical expression and demonstration. The project itself embellished this information providing both visual and audio support to transport the user to seventeenth century Jamaica. The goal in these digital projects are to inform and supply a deeper appreciation for the history produced by their work and this project did just that.

Spatial Digital Humanities: Embattled Borderlands

Embattled Borderlands Created by Krista Schyler in collaboration with the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, the National University of Mexico, and the International League of Conservation Photographers. Reviewed Feb. 7–Feb. 17, 2020

Embattled Borderlands is a digital Story Map that documents the impacts of United States immigration and border security policies along the United States-Mexico border. This project was conducted as a national and international collaborative effort to humanize the southern border. Led by Krista Schyler, this team documented the effects immigration and border politics have had on the ecosystem, wildlife, and society along the southern border. The content of this Story Map is based on years of original documentation and research. Schyler has combined their published work with additional resources provided by their collaborators, to create a multifaceted representation of the southern border that is both visually captivating and informative.

This Story Map begins by defining what a borderland is and identifies specifically which border region will be the focus of this project. Although viewers could infer from the images and locations featured throughout the Story Map, the creator made a responsible decision by explicitly outlining the geographic scope of this project. Additionally, Schyler provided historic and ecological background into this region, which further contextualizes the geographic scope for viewers. Within this introductory section, Schyler also communicates the purpose of this project. Altogether, this first section primes viewers to absorb the content that is to follow, and assists in framing their interpretations.

The actual content is divided into eight main subjects: Tijuana, Migration, Sonoran Desert, San Pedro, Sky Islands, Chihuahua, Big Bend, and Lower Rio Grande. Each section can be accessed by scrolling through the Story Map, or by selecting a desired section from the drop-down menu at the top of the screen. Each section includes comprehensive descriptions of the political and ecological history of each region. Original images by Schyler correspond to each historical and geographical description and enhance the immersive experience. Viewers can associate an actual place to the narrative they read, thereby further identifying or sympathizing with the changing realities of the southern border. Schyler has also made this project available in Spanish.  The translated version of the information that does not compromise the format or connotations of descriptions for each town. I think this is an admirable and conscious effort to serve the regional audience.

The “Migration” section incorporates exceptional uses of digital tools to illustrate human experiences. This section includes a digital map that computes the number of migrant deaths in Arizona since 1981. This map is followed by a real-world account of one of these deaths through interviews and photos. The creator has not specified a clear chronological scope. Within each section, one can see that Schyler includes political history throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. I think the decision to organize the information by location or topic rather than by decade strengthens each individual narrative. Forgoing a timeline presents each region as active, unique moving parts within a larger narrative. Furthermore, this casts the environment as a new lens from which to analyze history.

“Migration” section of Embattled Borderlands

While I appreciate the utility of the drop-down menu, the introductory section and purpose of Embattled Borderlands is not included in this tool. Viewers could dive into the content without reviewing vital background context and not fully grasp the overall goal of this project. Furthermore, this project is missing a dedicated ‘about’ section. More information about Krista Schyler can be found at the very end of the story map, but this tidbit is informal and does not provide much scholastic background into the project. Nor can this be accessed directly through the drop-down tool.

Although the creator refrains from injecting a blatant political objective or interpretation throughout the Story Map, each section highlights the failures and injustices of American policies. Furthermore, Schyler encourages viewers to “take action” and offers ways to engage in the political conversation at the local and national level. While no political ideology is explicitly being pushed, including these resources may suggest to some that there is something wrong with the policies viewers have just encountered. However, I also think this is a way to empower individuals to also view themselves as significant pieces to the larger narrative.

Through Embattled Borderlands, Krista Schylerinvites viewers to examine border politics through the lenses of culture and the environment. Schyler and their collaborators have crafted an inclusive, informative, and personal illustration of local realities caught in between national politics. This effort is an example of effective cross-field collaboration facilitated through the means of Digital Humanities. This Story Map could be most useful for a wide range of professionals and academics within history, politics, environmental fields. At the same time, the language and content are familiar, therefore accessible enough to be grasped by local communities.  

Digital Review: Making the History of 1989

Making the History of 1989. Created and maintained by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (CHNM) at George Mason University. Reviewed February 16- February 17.

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) created the Making the History of 1989 to help educate people about what lead up to the collapse of the Soviet Union by examining the changes happening in the Eastern Bloc. The project does this by giving an overview of each country in the Eastern Bloc and how they eventually fell away from the Communist Party as well as the events that contributed to this widespread shift away from Communism. Unfortunately, the sections for Albania, Romania, and Yugoslavia are missing from the introduction. They are tabs that can be clicked on, but only a blank page is shown in response. Aside from this, the introductory section is well done, and it provides the viewer with all the necessary information to start looking at and analyzing the information in the following sections.

The next section includes primary sources relating to these events. This section presents the viewer with a list of countries to select from, showing the viewer a page with primary sources relating to the country they select. This works well because it does not just list sources under one country, but it lists that source under each country it is related to. The page also shows a “featured” source upon opening to immediately draw attention to an interesting source. The website changes the source each time the page is navigated to. This page is well done, and the only issue with it is the listing of sources under Turkey. When Turkey is selected a page with no sources pops up. Even if there are no sources for Turkey it would perhaps be simpler to not include Turkey.

The third section contains interviews with scholars, focusing on the events that lead to Communism falling apart and how they cover this topic in their classes. The website separates these interviews into segments addressing each question asked. The viewer can sort these segments either by interviewer or by theme of questions. This enables the viewer to focus on a particular topic they are interested in or a certain researcher that they want to hear from. The questions here are well thought out and the answers are very informative to the listener.

Screen allowing the user to choose what segments they want to see, sorted into two categories.

The next section contains six thorough teaching modules that let students dive deeper and explore certain elements of this time period and opens discussion on how these events tie into the larger themes seen in the collapse of Communism. These teaching modules provide a lecture, multiple primary sources, teaching strategies, a lesson plan, and questions for the students to discuss and write about. The module makes sure to note where the research comes from and provides credit to those who helped create it. These modules challenge students to think and add variety, so the class is more than the teacher giving a lecture.

The last section provides twelve case studies that seem to be similar to the teaching modules. They are geared towards educators by providing primary sources, lecture portions, and a reflection section. They seem to contain fewer instructions so the students can focus on examining the sources and drawing their own conclusions for discussion.

The project is a great use of technology considering most of the information and content was created in 2007. There are some sections missing, as discussed above, but there is not a certainty if this is due to old code or if these sections were overlooked. A similar idea to the lesson plans could have been done physically, but this would have made them less accessible. The current format targets educators but provides enough information that it would be useful for anyone interested in this area of European history. The project should consider adding subtitles to the interviews so that people who are deaf or heard of hearing also have access to the information within. The many members, both faculty and students, of the RRCHNM did a great job in creating this project by allowing it to appeal to members of multiple audiences.