Digital Red Records

On January 26, 2018, CRRJ hosted “Digital Red Records”, a workshop on digital collections covering historical racial violence in the united states.

Held at Northeastern University School of Law, the workshop brought together four initiatives, the CRRJ Burnham-Nobles Archive, Mapping Violence, The Racial Violence Archive and the Bailey-Washington-Beck Database, with the shared purpose of accumulating records on historical racial violence and presenting them on digital platforms. The term “Red Record” refers to the endeavor of Ida B. Wells, co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who in the 1890s sought to document instances of lynching across the United States South in order to demonstrate its utility for curtailing the socio-political and economic progress of Black Americans. The initiatives present at the workshop jointly sought to continue Wells’ legacy through discussing how to keep, expand and augment existing records.

In recent years, scholars have synthesized the fields of digital humanities and race studies through embarking on digital projects that document historical racial and ethnic violence in the United States during the early and mid-twentieth century. Such studies serve to contextualize continuing and pervasive episodes of police violence and ethnic division today.  Through this movement, key questions have emerged as to what records should be prioritized, as well as to what extent and in what manner they should be presented to the wider public as both educational and advocacy tools.

At the workshop, participants grappled with one of the core and enduring questions surrounding documentation of instances of racial violence — the classification of acts, specifically lynching. Since the Tuskegee Conference on lynching of December 11, 1940, debates have continued as to the necessity of classification for both conceptually and empirically maintaining records, and also to maximize their utility for scholarship and advocacy.

The second primary focus of discussion was how to synergize current collections and mobilize them for restorative justice efforts, including memorialization, public policy, education, civil or criminal prosecution, and truth commissions.


January 26, 2018


Northeastern University School of Law


  • Amy Kate Bailey, Associate Professor, University of Illinois, Chicago
  • Margaret Burnham, CRRJ
  • Daniel Cohen, Vice Provost for Information Collaboration, Dean of the Libraries and Professor of History, Northeastern University
  • David Cunningham, Professor of Sociology, Washington University St. Louis
  • Jay Driskell, Visiting Scholar, George Washington University
  • Emily Esten, MA student in Public Humanities, Brown University
  • Melvin J. Kelly, IV, the Elizabeth Ann Zitrin Teaching Fellow at CRRJ
  • Rhonda Jones, CRRJ Lead Archivist
  • Monica Martinez, Assistant Professor of American Studies, Brown University
  • Giordana Mecagni, Head of Special Collections, Northeastern University
  • Melissa Nobles, Kenan Sahin Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, MIT
  • Margaret M. Russell, Associate Professor of Law, Santa Clara School of Law
  • Kaylie Simon, CRRJ Project Director of Restorative Justice
  • Sarah Sweeney, Digital Repository Manager, Northeastern University
  • Geoff Ward, Associate Professor of Criminology, Law and Society, University of California-Irvine
  • Nan Woodruff, Professor of African American Studies, Penn State University
  • Rose Zoltek-Jick, CRRJ Associate Director
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