Texas is a large state that is both demographically and geographically diverse. It is also a place where the long histories of conquest, colonization, slavery, and border enforcement intersected, making it a key site to study histories of racist violence targeting different racial and ethnic groups.
Why doesn’t a record of racist violence exist?
This monumental research project is necessary because federal and state governments refused to keep accurate records of racist violence. The Tuskegee Institute, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and anti-lynching activists, like Ida B. Wells, among others, worked on the margins to maintain records of lynching of African Americans. Civil rights advocates also protested anti-Mexican violence. Journalists, like Jovita Idár, lawyers, like Frank Pierce, and elected officials, like State Representative José Tomas Canales helped create records of the atrocities they witnessed. However, these early 20th century data collectors had neither the capacity nor the access to create a comprehensive record. Today, thanks to efforts by projects like the Equal Justice Initiative, Lynching in Texas, the Beck-Tolnay Inventory of Southern Lynchings, and research by historians like Kidada Williams, William Carrigan, Clive Webb, Ken Gonzales-Day, Trinidad Gonzales, Jeffrey Littlejohn, Annette M. Rodriguez, and Beth Lew Williams, there is a growing record of lynchings in the United States. But, studying lynchings exclusively only provides a partial understanding of how racist violence shaped daily life for millions of Americans. Projects like the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice and the Racial Violence Archive are helping to expand our understanding of racial violence.
Why 1900 to 1930?
The early decades of the twentieth century proved to be a violent time. These were years of great social, cultural, demographic, and economic transformation in Texas. From a civil war in Mexico to military preparations for World War I staged in Texas, residents witnessed turbulence abroad and at home. Historians estimate that anti-Mexican violence at the hands of vigilantes, state and local law enforcement, and US soldiers claimed the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of ethnic Mexicans, American citizens and Mexican nationals alike. This period also saw the rise of anti-Black violence at the hands of vigilantes and law enforcement. The National Association for Advancement of Colored People ranked Texas third in the nation for the most lynchings on record. This was also a period of widespread social organizing across the state by Texans who insisted on their civil rights and called for an end to lynchings and abuse by law enforcement. In addition to cases of racist violence, this project is collecting data about the various strategies that Texans used to seek justice including journalism, legislation, legal claims, public protest, and investigations by state, federal, and foreign officials.
Who are your collaborators?
Mapping Violence has been developed in conversation with leading historians, sociologists, legal experts, and experts in digital humanities. In different regions of the United States, researchers are asking important questions about how to record histories of racist violence and how to make them available to the public. Key examples include Geoff Ward and David Cunningham of the Racial Violence Archive and Margaret Burnham and Melissa Nobles of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project. Collaborators at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities at Brown University, Susan Smulyan, Steven Lubar, and James McGrath, also supported early exploration with digital tools. Mapping Violence was also inspired by collaborations with members of Refusing to Forget, Christopher Carmona, Sonia Hernandez, John Moran Gonzalez, Trinidad Gonzales, and Benjamin Johnson who helped lead public history efforts in Texas. At the University of Texas at Austin, this project is supported by leading librarians and digital scholars like Adriana Cásarez and Albert Palacios. Mapping Violence is also supported by a LLILAS Benson Digital Scholarship Curriculum Design Grant.
What is the Mapping Violence Digital Research Lab?
A project of this scale requires a team of researchers. The Mapping Violence Digital Research Lab started at Brown University in 2015 when the project PI-trained undergraduate and graduate students to research cases of racist violence. This team of students learned traditional historical research methods and new digital humanities methods to contribute to the project. Over the years more than 40 students joined the research lab and contributed to the project. In spring 2020, Martinez co-taught a Mapping Violence seminar at Brown University with James McGrath. Students in that course contributed to research for the project. In 2021, the Mapping Violence Digital Research Lab continues this work at the University of Texas at Austin where both undergraduates and graduate students are contributing to the effort. In fall 2021, Martinez is co-teaching a history seminar with Albert Palacios and students are learning research methods, writing skills, and how to use digital tools. They are also helping in the recovery effort.
How will this research be shared?
Research will be published as books and in peer-reviewed journals, but it will also be shared using public history methods and digital tools to make the information available and useful for wider audiences. One primary tool for sharing information will be an interactive digital map where people can search the project data and learn about individual cases. Research findings will also be shared as historical essays, digital tours, public history programming, and as teaching materials for educators.
How is Mapping Violence funded?
This project was made possible (in part) by the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York, a grant from the Office of the Vice President for Research at Brown University, the Karen T. Romer Interdisciplinary-Team Undergraduate Research and Teaching Award, and support from the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage. The statements made and views expressed are solely the responsibility of the primary investigator.