57. The Colored Conventions Project Resurrects Disremembered History With Denise Burgher, Jim Casey, Gabrielle Foreman, & Many Others


Welcome to museum archipelago. I'm in Elsner. Museum archipelago guides you through the rocky landscape of museums. Each episode is never longer than fifteen minutes. So let's get started in American history. Most often told the vitality of black activism has been obscured in favor of celebrating white lead movements in the nineteenth century, an enormous network of African American activists created a series of state, and national political meetings known as the colored conventions movement convention movement was black lead, lack organizers came together across so many of the states, beginning in eighteen thirty folks began to gather and Philadelphia and there were both state, national conventions that discussed labor rights educational rights voting rights violence against black communities. The expulsion of people who work considered residents, and citizens conventions movement, was not just a kind of single thing where there was one issue. They were really dedicated towards Salt Lake's, figuring out conventions were held in at least thirty five states. And keep in mind. This is the nineteenth century. So the weren't fifty states even back then we really think there's a way through this history to rethink everything begins far along the civil war leads up into the twentieth century, Gabrielle foreman and Jim Casey are two co founders and two co directors of the colored conventions project. A black digital humanities initiative focused on researching and teaching the colored conventions movement. And my name's Gabrielle Cormon, and I teach at the university of Delaware, and one of the co founders of the colored conventions project and the founding faculty director at that project. Hello, Jim, Casey, I'm a researcher center for digital humanities at Princeton University and is also one of the co founders of the project as well as one of the code co-directors, the colored conventions project, or CCP is dedicated to identifying collecting curing, all of the documents produced by the colored conventions movement, which started in eighteen thirty. And lasted until the eighteen ninety s the project is much bigger than just Forman. Or Casey at includes graduate, fellow Denise burger. And I am a team member at colored convoking project house over the Delaware, significance of this collection is that none of these documents have all been assembled at one place. Not even run. The conventions were going on were the proceedings and the minute, all in one place for anyone to actually look and free. So is you the first time that the archive will be collected so long to see him to understand not this issues that facing African Americans but in particular how to make more complex in there. You think about the app American community and the kind of civic social political activity that were taking up not just in the United States, but across the diaspora. And so what we're getting in a more complete idea of not only what took place then. But how he activists were able to engineer us shake. And create contemporary, some right? Who medical action and social Justice organizations in our current moment by studying the organizing principles of the colored conventions movement. The project reveals how data can be a form of protests. One of the things that we see in the convention's, most often is that they are responding to a lack of information about who they are, who their communities are what they're doing. Right. And this is about a kind of form of protest where we're trying to combat against things like ignorance, and so many of the conventions would have these formalized ways a gathering information stealing them in the preparing them to get published in all kinds of different ways, and conventions themselves, have a longer life and a longer reach because the proceedings often appear in black newspapers and in the anti-slavery press, and in the progressive white crass. But if you look at the coverage of these conventions, then you, understand the structural. And strategized reach to make sure that we get beyond the people who were actually in the meeting rooms themselves that one of the things that the project has made central to think not just about the podium and not just the podium and the pews. But to think through the ways in which black infrastructure was built around black convention, organizing people. People in the California extension. Do we have this very small, the growing group of African Americans, and they get together in conventions a couple of times eighteen fifties on enter the eating sixties? And what they do is they ask everybody, who's involved, the ask around to take what effectively amounts to a census and they want to gather information about who the populations is it's being left out of the official records, does being left out of the government reports we have all kinds of things happening in California. We're folks are being denied the right to testify in court of law, where you're not physically able to account for yourself. And so the conventions compile all of these mystics and they track everything they can with the idea that the providing it set of youthful information for the writers in the ranks, but also the local politicians know that the community is not just a couple of people living out, gold, rush country. And then when they go to publish it, and this is a really kind of important part is that they prepare some reports. To go out to as they might frame, it the people of the United States, and then they'll often many conventions prepare five reports that are dressed to the people of color in the state or in the country. And oftentimes, they're putting out relatively the same message in the same set of ideas really sort of gearing in prioritizing different kinds of arguments in different places. And so when thinking about the convention is the place to learn about record keeping it's full of so many of these great examples. So folks, who were sort of thinking in multiple direct one time, and how we do things like accumulate data and then build stores around them and the co founders of the project, purposely structured the initiative to mirror, the energy and collective commitments of the colored conventions themselves. When of the first things that struck me when I visited the project website was the terms of use for the projects data. The data are freely accessible, but when you go to download the site ask you to commit to the following principles. I honor CCP's commitment to the use of data humanizes and acknowledges, the black people who. Collected organizational histories are assembled here, although the subjects of databases are often reduced to abstract data points. I will contextualized a narrate the condition of the people who appear as data and to name them when possible as forming explains principles like these reflect the wholeness of black communities, and is an example of one of the ways that the project intentionally and in practice continues. The principles of the colored convention movement itself to respect, not just collect whenever possible way try to intervene in the ways in which black people are represented in academic. They says in ways that do honor to the ways in which the delegates and the conventions were intervening about the ways in which black people and communities were represented in the larger press in the law, and in the exclusionary politics, which tried to erase them. Big data. Seth tend to call things items, right? Black people showed up on ledgers as items, we have a whole history of being turned into objects and objects. And our language that are very common are the nomenclature in libraries, than in museums in the ways, in which we talk about the things that we curate, and so we wanted at all moments testify, and witnessed to the humanity and the narratives of named people whose histories have been disregard and who can be turned to quickly into data sets in ways that are extraordinarily uncomfortable considering the history of objectification and ownership that is the legacy of black people's existence in these United States over more than four hundred years that I think. What we're trying to make sure does not happen that people come to the use of data which is collected in a group of people who wants to respect not just collect though work of people who came before us and largely made our existence in our study possible. And we wanna do that in ways that always is human izing to them. And to us in those burger points out part of the project's purpose is to change the overall narrative of the most often told version of black American history in the nineteenth century, very rushed out a detailed notion of abolitionist in this country. Don't understand actually, the John had abolitionist American, nor do we that understand the way that after working activism, shape contemporary, quote unquote, American lotion of civil right? Of who gets to vote. And why of who gets? He and in a German, racial imbalance allow one soared to dominate movie ability to actually see what happens and they're holding move. He understand what happened. And it also than these this, I think, to create a kind of some of the churn history, American progress than American this neutrality. The co host racial such etcetera that truth allies were much more interested in what I can Americans miss saying about African Americans more involved in creating this movement. And that's one of the reasons that the under study of the convention movement, is a particularly agree GIS Desra member ans- because the movement speaks to the continuous targeting of communities of color in. In this country that has gone on more or less uninterrupted and documents, much longer history of organized protests and formal petitioning for fair and equal treatment of those communities. The C C P is also studying the social network of the convention goers. When you list out who attended which conference you begin to see patterns, not only of prolific delegates, but also the infrastructure around the conventions. The project has even organized records like reviews of boarding, houses, the conference goers, stayed, in another key principle of the project is a commitment to resurrecting women's centrality to the movement records of which might not be as widely published that took a great deal of energy to host a convention that those conventions had hundreds and hundreds of people attending and that those people were men and women, and that women were responsible. For the boarding houses, and the feeding and the housing of the delegates and that so many conversations and political strategy sessions. We know also happened in those informal places. So the project has been committed to resurrecting in centrality in the history that they have been a raised from or anonymous d- in in terms of the records themselves, but that we know they were central to in the actual historical moment. And we have strategies and protocols to make sure as we resurrect this history that women are included in the history that they helped to create QC makes the point that the original convention, goers, were really good at getting lots of people involved in the movement. And this presents yet another opportunity for the project to mirror, the movement. We know that if we can do just enough to help get folks up and running participating different kinds of ways that we can really expand the numbers of who can. Participate in preserving and creating access to this history to that idea. We've created this annual holiday to celebrate the birthday Frederick Douglass and what we do every year, we get birthday cakes and we sing happy birthday, and we get together with groups, and we give out these organizing kits to help folks at other locations and communities in schools, organize their own events and together all in one afternoon. Relag online, and we transcribe documents together with the idea that we're both celebrating something. But we're also inviting folks to participate in building arts of the history that we're talking about Douglas day wasn't created by the colored conventions project, but is another example of resurrecting something that already existed before the redefines take place on Frederick Douglass is chosen birthday February fourteenth, and in two thousand nineteen will be held at the university of Delaware Morris library and the African American museum of Philadelphia. They will also be live streamed over the internet. I think a good way to describe the colored conventions project is as an open research framework with a very strong set of principles. It is remarkable for me to see the organizing tools that I think of his modern or at least native to the internet, have their roots in this understudied movement of nineteenth century, black activism, it's also interesting to think how other projects and institutions can contribute and follow some of the same organizational principles. There is a place for storytelling in the midst of all this data. And in fact, that's what tends to connect with people. And that's something that is shared between museum digital spaces, some of the very questions about excess ability and participation that museums are attempting to grapple with finally at the stage where also engaging as a project that creates digital content and digital store. Stories about this extraordinarily group of delegates and participants and hosts who made this movement possible. You can learn more about the colored conventions project by visiting colored conventions dot org. This has been museum archipelago. You'll find a full transcript of this episode along with show nuts at museum, archipelago dot com. I'm so happy to announce that museum archipelago stickers are now available. These feature special treatments of the logo and a perfect for museum conferences, or just to signal, your favorite inciteful museum podcast. The pack of five Sixers is only available to club archipelago members at any contribution level. Join by February I twenty nineteen at patriotair dot com slash museum archipelago to ensure you get your stickers special thanks to club archipelagos newest member Simon. Aubin dorf. Thanks for listening and next time. Bring a friend.

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