Saturday, April 18, 2009

Du Bois Going Digital!

In addition to defending my dissertation and seeing Holy Mavericks published--marks of a fantastic April--I just found out that the papers and writings of W.E.B. Du Bois are going ditigal. This is wonderful news!

This will of course make research much easier for scholars, but secondary students and undergraduates can read Du Bois letters or speeches right alongside works like Souls of Black Folk (1903). There is already a wealth of Du Bois material on-line, but this project will offer ascess to unknown and obscure resources.

Having worked extensively for the last several years on eighteenth-century New England pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards, I often consulted the Yale University Press published collection of his works. I also worked in the Edwards Papers at Yale University and Yale Divinity School. Now, many of whose works are digitized and searchable through the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale Divinity School, and both scholars and students are asking new questions and making new observations about his work and influence. A whole slew of Edwards's sermons are now available, for example, so this may give even more insight into the daily and weekly pastoral labors of this frontier preacher. (And speaking of new thoughts and observations that emerge in the course of digital document research, read John Fea's thoughts on a project of his here.)

I would expect the same for Du Bois. The collection will be searchable, and no doubt new interpretations of one of the world's most significant Black intellectuals will come to light.

Thanks to a grant from the Verizon Foundation, the Special Collections Department at UMass-Amherst, where Du Bois's papers reside, will oversee the two-year project. It begins in July, and at the project's end will make Du Bois's work available the world over. Du Bois was a global thinker and world traveler, so it is a wonderful sign to see things come full circle.

"What we're looking to do is spark conversation about difficult issues in race, inequality, class and all these things are things that concerned Du Bois," said Robert Cox, director of the special collections at the UMass Amherst library. Cox continued: “Du Bois was a great intellectual and a great activist. He took things that he understood from his academic work and applied it to real-life situations and to improving the real lives of individuals in American society.”

I will continue to post updates and information about this project as I hear more. Feel free to send things that you find as well. Also, I hope to post more about the Du Bois papers in the summer, as my good friend Edward Carson and I are traveling to Massachusetts for research.

Read more about the digitizing Du Bois project from the Boston Globe, National Public Radio, and the Daily Collegian.


Anonymous said...

Fantastic news! I'm glad to know about that.

Phil said...

I agree. Came across it by accident doing some internet research. Can't wait to find out more about this important project.

Zawir Al-Hamidi said...

I'm sure that the internet research really help this kind of important project.