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An NEH Fellowship for “Harlem in Disorder”

This week the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded me a NEH Mellon Fellowship for Digital Publication to support “Harlem in Disorder: A Spatial History of How Racial Violence Changed in 1935.” The fellowship will allow me to spend Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 completing the project. Below is the project description:

The outbreak of disorder in Harlem on the evening of March 19, 1935 immediately attracted national attention as the first large-scale racial violence in the United States in more than a decade, and as an expression of the frustrated hopes of black migrants to the north. Later, scholars recognized that night as the first instance of a new form of racial violence characterized by black attacks on white property and clashes with police. This study provides the first detailed analysis of the events of the disorder, maps where they happened, and traces how they were dealt with in the press and in the legal system. This approach directs attention to the complexity and heterogeneity of the form of racial disorder that characterized the second half of the twentieth century. Developing a digital publication structured as a multi-layered, hyperlinked argument showcases that perspective by connecting different scales of analysis: broad narratives, aggregated patterns, and individual events.

This work uses Scalar to create a different form of digital publication than currently exists but one which has been anticipated since humanities scholars began to consider the implications of hyperlinks and electronic publication. Robert Darnton famously outlined a layered publication in the pages of the New York Review of Books in 1999 that broadly resembles the structure of this project. But that vision has been overshadowed by a focus on developing digital publications that incorporate multimedia to enrich traditional linear texts. This digital publication is designed to address the tensions between linear narrative and the way that a disorder occurs in various places, involves patterns as well as individual events, and requires interpreting fragmentary and contradictory sources. Providing multiple pathways in addition to the narrative of events, tags help readers see the context of events and patterns and make visible the sources and interpretations on which those analyses are based. Moreover, this form of digital publication makes it possible to incorporate more extensive primary sources than a print monograph, and a greater variety of sources than is usual for a digital project, which tend to be focused on a single type of source such as newspapers.

An example page for an event, highlighting the tags that provide pathways to pages on categories of events and sources to which the event belongs and sections of the narrative in which it appears