Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive releases interactive map of Jim Crow era violence

In November 2023, the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project’s archival team released a new map feature in the Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive.

Months in the making by CRRJ’s dedicated archivists, historians, designers and developers, this interactive map is a visualization of racialized violence in the southern United States between 1930 and 1954. The data presented have been collected and analyzed by the CRRJ and documented within the Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive.

Law enforcement systems, particularly in the Deep South, failed to protect African American citizens from widespread racial terror from the end of the Civil War through the Civil Rights era. The map can be used to learn how violence affected people’s lives, defined legal rights and shaped politics during the Jim Crow era.

Filters can be used to refine searches. A blue map marker indicates a single incident. Where there are multiple cases, a heatmap marker clusters incidents and clicking on it will reveal individual crimes in that location.

The distribution of cases on the map over-represents states, counties and cities in which CRRJ has conducted most of its research over the past decade. For example, CRRJ has concentrated its efforts in Birmingham, AL and New Orleans, LA, resulting in the discovery of many cases in these cities. Thus, their representation on the map may make them appear exceptionally violent places, as compared to locations like Dallas, TX or Jackson, MS.

It should be noted that the map, along with the rest of the cases in the archive, skew towards areas in which records of racial violence were made and subsequently discovered in an archive or other repository. There are vast swathes of the country where racist violence took its victims leaving no impression on the historical record. 

Please be aware that cases are displayed on a contemporary map of the United States. This map does not reflect the geography during the period in which the incident took place.

Across the period this archive spans (1930-1954), the built American landscape changed dramatically. Highways replaced county roads, suburban sprawl absorbed outlying communities, and urban renewal bulldozed Black neighborhoods in the name of progress. Some locales vanished completely as midcentury migration to larger urban centers depopulated the countryside.

While researchers and archivists who have assembled this archive have done their best to record the locations of each incident, researchers might want to further explore these locations via historical map databases such as the Sanborn Map collection at the Library of Congress or the USGS Historical Topographic Map Explorer.

General User Agreement:

This information is provided for the purpose of supporting research and education on the history of racially motivated violence targeting African Americans in the Jim Crow South. Use of site contents or data in any way to harass, dox, or cause harm to any individual identified in this archive or their families is a prosecutable crime.

The Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive houses case files and documents for more than 1,000 cases of racial homicides in the Jim Crow South. Co-founded by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Margaret Burnham, CRRJ director and professor of law at Northeastern University.

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