FIRE Streams

Beginning in January 2018, AADHum partnered with the University of Maryland’s First-Year Innovation & Research (FIRE) program, which seeks to provide first-year, undergraduate students an authentic research experience, broad mentorship, and institutional connections that impact academic success, personal resilience, and professional development.

AADHum has previously enriched the FIRE program with a research stream entitled AADHum: Digital Archives. Led by Postdoctoral Associate Dr. Jessica H. Lu from Spring 2018 to Spring 2019, this course allowed UMD undergraduates an opportunity to explore and develop research at the intersections of African American history, culture, and digital humanities.

Interested undergraduates can learn more about joining FIRE here.

AADHum: Digital Archives (2018-2019)

Faculty Leader: Dr. Catherine Knight Steele

Research Educator: Dr. Jessica H. Lu

“… liberatory archives are not things so much as they are processes. Understanding them, then, is not a ‘what’ question as much as a ‘how’ question.” —Jarrett M. Drake

We live, work, and play online. With every click, like, tweet, Instagram, snap, and post, we’re creating and leaving behind a digital imprint that reaches far beyond our own personal networks. This stream built on the core work of the African American Digital Humanities Initiative (AADHum) by showing students how we can collect and preserve these imprints to build dynamic archives of human experiences, and then learn from them to pursue social change.

For Black and African Americans, who have long battled against oppression, digital spaces can provide an opportunity for creative expression and argument that challenge dominant narratives. Situating itself at the intersections of African American history, rhetoric, and digital humanities, this research project considered how black and African Americans combine innovative language practices and digital technology to centralize Black lives, challenge racism, and argue for freedom. As researchers, students analyzed their own everyday, digital worlds to identify and build collections of online Black discourse that grappled with the question, “What does it mean to be free?” Then, students learned how to use several coding languages–including XML, HTML, and CSS–to preserve their online collection and create digital archives. Finally, students considered ethical web design and publication as they devised plans and strategies for building a full, interactive website that would showcase how Black people are advocating for freedom in meaningful ways online. Ultimately, students fostered a critical understanding of archives as sites of power, digital technologies as tools for social justice, and the enduring legacies of Black resistance and rhetorical innovation.