Slavery’s Echoes: Documenting the Peculiar Institution in Missouri, 1720 to the Present

[This is a FICTIONAL grant application created for educational purposes only. The contents are in no way representative of the named institution.]

The Missouri State Museum (MSM) in Jefferson City, Missouri requests a NEH Digital Projects for the Public Discovery Grant for $14,977 to convene stakeholders, conduct research and produce draft content for a total reconfiguration of MSM’s current Slavery’s Echoes website as Slavery’s Echoes: Documenting the Peculiar Institution in Missouri, 1720 to the Present (Slavery’s Echoes.) The updated Slavery’s Echoes will take shape as an online web resource that interactively engages with and presents historical data, documents, artifacts, and contemporary scholarship on and dynamic interpretations of slavery to tell a more nuanced and complete story of slavery in the state of Missouri. Through collaboration with other Missouri based organizations and institutions MSM hopes to provide the state’s citizenry with on-demand interpretive content that complicates and corrects misinformed stories of forced labor statewide. Narratives of this kind continue to be perpetuated in public and private spaces and are harmful to future generations of Missourians.

Currently, the Slavery’s Echoes website is rudimentarily configured. Formatting is askew, the interface is plain and outdated but most obvious, the language used to describe the enslaved people and the institution of slavery itself do not align with current best practices in slavery interpretation. The website, as it stands now, does not assign agency to the enslaved populations featured. Further, it attempts but fails at portraying the enslaved community as full-bodied and complex historical actors. Lastly, at some points the website seems to bolster the common trope of slavery as a benevolent institution. There are issues with the current site’s interpretation and digital presentation that will be enhanced and totally renvisioned by the project team.

The project’s goals are:

  1. To counter the widely held notion that slavery was confined to the American South.
  2. To correct detrimental misconceptions about slavery and its national primacy.
  3. To introduce various constituencies to primary sources that are essential to a historically accurate understating of slavery in Missouri as part of a global system of oppression.
  4. To provide site visitors with the historical underpinnings and language to identify and work to incrementally change current inequities, personal biases, and clear vestiges of slavery.
  5. To craft a model for other border states in historical contestation (Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Tennessee) to reference and emulate. As a network, these sites could operate as a space for contemporary conversations around learning and healing from past collective traumas.

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Screenshots of website mockup

About Sydney Johnson

Sydney. Storyteller. Thinker. Creator. Black Feminist Historian. Welcome to my blog! I am a first year American Studies Doctoral student at Rutgers-Newark. I hope you enjoy my blog as much as I’m enjoying my journey.
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