Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Reflections on Seshat: A DH Initiative at Howard University

By Kenton Rambsy

Last summer, Dana Williams, former College Language Association President, invited Maryemma Graham (University of Kansas) and me to be Co-P.I.s on a digital humanities project. Under the leadership of Williams, we co-wrote and eventually received funding for an NEH HBCU Humanities Initiative Grant —“Seshat: A Howard University Digital Humanities Initiative.” The Initiative took place in late June 2016.

Williams noted early on that there have been a handful of Digital Humanities (DH) projects on slave narratives and other topics in African American history and culture. However, she explained, we’ve seen far fewer major DH-projects in African American literary studies

[Related: "Seshat: A Digital Humanities Initiative" at Howard University]

A chief goal of Seshat was to expose scholars to theories, methodologies, and tools related to digital humanities in order to redesign four existing humanities courses at Howard University as DH specific. For approximately two weeks, institute participants engaged in training with text mining software, content management systems, and a host of graphic visualization software.

Corrie Claiborne (Morehouse College), Adam Banks (Stanford University), Bryan Carter (University of Arizona), and Gil Perkins (Words Liive), among other scholars, presented information regarding digital humanities projects and methodologies, and they engaged participants in conversations about little known, early black digital projects. Maryemma Graham, for example, spoke about working with a group of literary scholars and historians in the mid-80s to organize the Computer Assisted Analysis of Black Literature (CAABL), which would later become the Project on the History of Black Writing.

The absence of major, funded DH projects at HBCUs makes the Howard University initiative particularly significant. The project seeks to ensure that cutting-edge technological and humanities instruction occurs at institutions that have been largely overlooked as DH funding and growth take place.

A notebook on digital humanities
Reflections on the “Space & Place in Africana/Black Studies” Institute  

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