Digital History

Leveraging new media platforms for scholarly communication is also important to me as a means of outreach.  I learned how to use the Scalar multimedia-authoring platform as a fellow in the NEH Digital Humanities summer seminar at USC’s Institute for Multimedia Literacy in 2011.  Since then, I have created Scalar companion websites for each of my books.

My first project was one of the first to use Scalar, and the power of the digital for this project is threefold: 1) I am able to display evidence from archival documents, newspapers, and oral histories that refute host Dick Clark’s claim that he integrated American Bandstand; 2) I am able to display video clips and over 100 images alongside my writing, which is invaluable for a media scholar; and 3) I am able to bring increased visibility to important local figures who deserve to be more well known, such as deejay and civil rights activist Georgie Woods and Mitch Thomas, who hosted the first black teen dance show (The Mitch Thomas Show influenced Bandstand and started fifteen years before Soul Train).

Why Busing Failed Scalar screenshot

For I have organized the site around “12 Ways to Teach ‘Busing’ Differently.”  This project supports my goal for the book which is to change how we talk about and teach school desegregation and civil rights at the college and high school levels.  Like the Nicest Kids project, this site also allows me to highlight civil rights activists like Boston’s Ruth Batson who are seldom mentioned in histories of the city’s “busing crisis.”

Making Roots Scalar screenshot web

The website,, includes several sections related to the cultural impact and legacy of Roots, such as a gallery of editorial cartoons, a selection of letters to the editors of newspapers from across the country, an annotated playlist of hip hop songs that reference Roots, and interviews about Roots with other scholars of African American history and culture.  These digital projects are important ways for me to bring my research to new audiences in new ways.

Black Quotidian cover image

Branching out from these book companion websites, Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African American Newspapers, is a born digital project that highlights everyday moments and lives in African-American history. This site features historical articles from black newspapers such as the Atlanta Daily WorldBaltimore Afro-AmericanChicago Defender, and Philadelphia Tribune. These newspapers are among the most important sources for understanding black history and culture in the twentieth century.  This project includes more than 365 posts (one for each day of the year) and more than 1,000 media objects.  By emphasizing the ordinary or mundane aspects of history I hope both to call attention to people and events that are not commonly featured in textbooks, documentaries, or Black History Month celebrations, while also casting new light on well-known black history subjects.  Black Quotidian was published in 2019 as a peer-reviewed digital publication from Stanford University Press.  It earned the American Studies Association’s Garfinkel Prize for exceptional work at the intersection of American Studies and Digital Humanities.

Urban Sights screenshot

My other peer-reviewed digital projects include guest editing the special issue of Urban History titled, “Urban Sights: Visual Culture and Urban History” (November 2016); the Southern Spaces article, “Dancing Around the ‘Glaring Light of Television’: Black Teen Dance Shows in the South” (September 2015); and co-guest editing (with Lauren Tilton, Amy Earhart, Susan Garfinkel, Jesse P. Karlsberg, and Angel David Nieves) the special issue of American Quarterly“Toward a Critically Engaged Digital Practice: American Studies and the Digital Humanities” (September 2018).