College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of English

What We Do

Now You See Us; Now You Don't:
Introducing the Black Book Interactive Project (BBIP)

Maryemma Graham

We live in a data-driven world, and while many remain suspicious of this development, it presents us with a challenge and an opportunity. If we look at African American novels, for example, despite the increase in black authorship, works old or new remain outside the domain of data-driven research. Closing the gap is our challenge, one that we do not face alone. The Project on the History of Black Writing has been fortunate to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities to address this noticeable gap. Over the next year, our goal is to develop a model, using a selection of African American novels to demonstrate the benefits of linking digital technology with discussions of race.

While many of us are "born digital," relying on email, social media, video conferencing and other technologies to facilitate our communication, terms like "datasets" and "text-mining" are relatively new to many of us and unknown to others.  BBIP encourages us to compose and research outside of the comfort zone of print, integrate these new methodologies that revise what we think and and how we work.  

Whether you are new to the field of digital humanities as a student or a scholar or have had some previous exposure, we invite you to join us in building a more informed community. Working interactively and collaboratively, we will learn from and share with each other through our involvement in different aspects of the process. Maximizing our theoretical and methodological possibilities, we can transform current digital practice. 

Initial stages of the work have already been completed, with the help of two partners, the Chicago Text Lab (University of Chicago)┬╗ and the English Department of Howard University┬╗, who hosted Seshat: A Howard University Digital Initiative in summer 2016. For the current phase of this project, our central focus will be creating an expanded metadata scheme, one that considers the crucial factor of race. Our partners, together with NEH, are committed to making new opportunities available for advancing our research and for ensuring that scholarship in the twenty-first century can proceed in an inclusive and equitable manner. We also believe that the model, when replicated, can enable richer analyses of texts, especially those from indigenous, African American and immigrant communities, texts produced and circulating widely, but virtually invisible in today's digital research community.

BBIP will benefit from your strengths, and we look forward to working together.


Maryemma Graham, Founding Director, Project on the History of Black Writing

Read More:


Statement of Innovation

Statement of Humanities Significance

Statement of Context


Diversifying the Digital Humanities

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