Thursday, July 23, 2015

This summer a small group of folks at Texas A&M University, myself, Rebecca Hankins, Maura Ives, and Sarah Potvin, have been working on DiBB: The Digital Black Bibliographic Project. The project will provide an expanded, accurate data set for black cultural research in multiple fields while providing a means to collect and manipulate humanities data, with particular attention to datamining and visualization techniques. During the course of the project, we have been looking at a wide variety of black bibliographies, and Rebecca mentioned's excellent work.

Launched in 1974, was initially a print project titled Africana Periodical Literature Index compiled by the now retired Davis Bullwinkle (About Founder). By the mid 1980s the project was transferred to a database and by 1999 the project was moved to the web. 

Original entry page:

The 1999 web version of the project included the Bibliography of Africana Periodical Literature Database and the African Women's Database (About). The current project has expanded to six database and includes the original databases plus Women Travelers, Explorers and Missionaries to Africa, Islam in Africa, Kenya Coast, and Water and Africa.

Like many of the early digital humanities projects, the web was utilized to allow a larger audience access to the work. Noting that the original research was "still not accessible to researchers," Bullwinkle spent "a great deal of time over many make the data computer accessible" (About).

The current project contains more than 218,000 records and is accessible by a simple set of search fields.

You might also search the materials by collection, country or by region.

We are fortunate to still have this site available. Like many early projects, AfricaBib was clearly a labor of love for its founder. When Bullwinkle retired in 2008, the project could have ended its lifespan as did many early activist projects that were removed from the web or lingered and became increasingly broken as the technology decayed. Instead, the African Studies Centre in Leiden, The Netherlands has taken on the responsibility of hosting the site, insuring its sustainability.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

E-Black Studies: Abdul Alkalimat's Brother Malcolm

Today I want to highlight the Brother Malcolm website created by Professor Abdul Alkalimat, Professor Emeritus of African American and Library and Information Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

 Brother Malcolm website

Launched in 1998, this site remains the premier scholarly source for Malcolm X information. I have used the site over many years, and Brother Malcolm was crucial to my work on the Alex Haley Malcolm X papers. In addition, Alkalimat launched and continues to run eBlack Studies, a foundational digital project in black studies.

Brother Malcolm contains a huge amount of information on Malcolm X, from pictures, family information, timelines of writings and speeches, a bibliography, guides to Malcolm X papers in special collections, Alex Haley's estate auction catalog, study guides and much more. Some of this material is not available elsewhere, all of it is extremely valuable. For example, I was able to use the Alex Haley Estate Auction catalog to decode where Alex Haley's "The Malcolm X I Knew" was published. Students also appreciated the site's link to Malcolm X's FBI papers. Without these materials, my work on Malcolm X would remain incomplete.

Alkalimat's site reveals the complexities and importance of Malcolm X's life. I find this letter from Malcolm X to his sister, Ella, while he was in prison in 1949 particularly moving:

Formed from activist politics, the site is staunchly open source and emphasizes a solidarity of democracy. Alkalimat writes,

"Our philosophy is based on three concepts: cyber democracy, collective intelligence, and information freedom.

  • Cyber democracy: maximize potential participation (connectivity) 
  • Collective intelligence: include all voices (content) 
  • Information freedom: free distribution of information (consumption)" (

This philosophy means that teacher training and student materials are included on the site.

The site also includes lists of related dissertations.

While Alkalimat is, to my mind, one of our founding digital humanists, his work has not received appropriate attention from the larger dh community. He was featured at the University of Maryland's 2008 Digital Diasporas conference, but few scholars outside of black studies digital work know of his important role in digital humanities.  I hope that those within the larger dh community come to recognize how important Alkalimat and his work are to dh and that we celebrate his ongoing work.