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NEH Grant Will Help U.Va. Work With Historically Black Colleges To Develop African-American History Projects On The Web

Oct. 27, 1999 -- A University of Virginia Web project that is building an archive of local African-American history has received a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to expand the project and help establish similar electronic archives with historically black colleges and universities around the state.

The U.Va. project, "Race and Place," a history archive of the Charlottesville-Albemarle County area during the Jim Crow era, is a joint project of the University’s Center for Digital History and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African-American and African Studies. It combines searchable databases of important primary sources, including photographs, newspaper records and census data, with historical exhibits on local African-American life from about 1870 to 1930.

The two-year grant will enable U.Va. to continue to add census and court records and other important historical resources to the archive. With the local model and technological tools being developed as part of it, U.Va. will also help historically black colleges and universities around the state build similar community projects, said Reginald D. Butler, director of the Woodson Institute, and William G. Thomas, director of the Center for Digital History. U.Va. is already collaborating with researchers at Norfolk State University in developing a Tidewater African-American history digital archive.

The U.Va. "Race and Place" Web site invites users to explore an extensive collection of archival materials from the age of segregation, including photographs, newspaper articles, letters, and broadsides drawn from various collections at U.Va.'s Alderman Library. With tools, databases and electronic forms being developed and tested, scholars elsewhere will have a framework for building their own projects.

In the Charlottesville project Web users can now search the site's databases of African-American businesses and households, as recorded in U.S. Census returns and Charlottesville city directories of the early 20th century. They can read local club and school announcements as well as commentary on national events in an African-American-owned and -operated newspaper, "The Reflector." They can also explore the political correspondence of African-Americans who struggled to retain their voting rights in the face of statewide disenfranchisement campaigns.

The material is intended to be of use for African-American history learning and research at all levels from the K-12 classroom to universities and the general public, Thomas said.

The Jim Crow era is especially important with K-12 history projects because it’s a period that’s often overlooked, he said. Many schools concentrate on earlier or later African-American history.

The "Race and Place" Web site grew out of student research into Alderman Library's Rufus W. Holsinger Studio Collection Digital Image Database, which includes more than 550 photographs of African-Americans taken between 1908 and 1927. Students enrolled in the Woodson Institute's Emerging Scholars Program and related African-American Studies courses have been researching the Holsinger collection for the past two years, Butler said.

Both at U.Va. and other institutions, the projects offer African-American and other students opportunities to work on significant research and to prepare themselves for careers in technology and the humanities, he said.

The Virginia Center for Digital History was founded by the University of Virginia in 1998. Its mission is to develop high-quality, well-researched, and reliable history materials for the World Wide Web and deliver them to schools, colleges, libraries, historical societies, and the general public.

The Woodson Institute coordinates African and African-American studies at the graduate and undergraduate level, as well as interdepartmental seminars, and offers residential research fellowships for predoctoral and postdoctoral work in African and African-American Studies.

"Race and Place: An African-American Community in the Jim Crow South" is on the World Wide Web at http://www.vcdh.virginia.edu/afam/index.html

For interviews or additional information please contact: Reginald D. Butler, (804) 924-3109, or rdb6d@virginia.edu; William G. Thomas, (804) 924-7834, or wgt9m@virginia.edu; Scot French, (804) 924-3109, or saf5g@virginia.edu

Contact: Jill Johnson, (804) 924-7116; Bob Brickhouse, (804) 924-6856

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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