University of Delaware

Accessible Archives

New agreement will enhance research for Colored Conventions Project

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8:48 a.m., May 11, 2016--A new agreement with Accessible Archives and the University of Delaware’s Colored Conventions Project will allow the innovative use of Accessible Archives’ databases, the UD Library has announced.

Accessible Archives, which is a project of Unlimited Priorities LLC, has databases including “African American Newspapers: The 19th Century.”

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The agreement allows the University of Delaware’s Colored Conventions Project (CCP), along with the project’s national teaching partners and the thousands of students who engage in original research through CCP’s curriculum, to present images from Accessible Archives’ databases on its ColoredConventions.org website.

The CCP, which brings 19th-century Black organizing to digital life, is pleased to partner with Accessible Archives and to celebrate the company’s long history of productive partnerships with UD, said P. Gabrielle Foreman, the project’s faculty director and Ned B. Allen Professor of English and professor of history and Black American studies at UD.

The founder of Accessible Archives, John Nagy, began the company by digitizing copies of the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper through "personal relationships with history scholars, primarily those at the University of Delaware," which led him to assemble his second database, “Civil War Newspapers.”

The database later added “African American Newspapers: The 19th Century,” along with the famous abolitionist papers the Liberator and the National Anti-Slavery Standard. Accessible Archives provides access to databases that contain some of the most accurate digital versions of historical newspapers.

Accessible Archives’ extension of its standard academic use license will expose those important, valuable materials to the many visitors to the CCP website.

“This groundbreaking agreement with Accessible Archives affirms the forward-thinking commitment to making selected historical materials available to broader publics that we saw from Gale-Cengage in 2015, when they also allowed the UD Library and the Colored Conventions Project to make images from their databases publically available,” said Gregg Silvis, UD associate university librarian for information technology and digital initiatives.

The CCP is a digital collection and teaching website used by students, community scholars and professors across the globe.

“The historic Colored Conventions were symbiotically connected with many of the 19th-century African American newspapers offered by Accessible Archives, so this agreement will be a great boon for Colored Conventions’ many users,” Foreman said.

Ann Ardis, UD’s senior vice provost for graduate and professional education and director of the Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center, which provided CCP with its first funding, also praised the agreement.

“We are thrilled that Accessible Archives will play such a pivotal role in our public humanities outreach to share this rich chapter of African American history,” Ardis said.

Starting in 1830, the Colored Conventions were state and national meetings organized by once-captive and free Blacks to strategize about how they could achieve educational, labor and legal justice. These meetings included many of the era’s most prominent figures as well as many writers, organizers, church leaders, newspaper editors and entrepreneurs whose names and histories have long been forgotten.

The decades-long effort created a host of minutes of the proceedings, many of which were rare or out-of-print before they became available on the CCP website.

“We have collected thousands of pages of minutes that tell us volumes about the diversity and spirit of political debates in historical black communities that were anything but monolithic,” said Carol Rudisell, project member and reference librarian at the UD Library.

The website and network of the Colored Conventions has renewed interest in these historical meetings — the project has created digital exhibits, hosted a symposium and is editing the first collection of scholarly essays on this historic movement. With the help of Accessible Archives, the Colored Conventions Project will add greatly to contemporary understandings of the long history of African American struggles for racial justice, Foreman said.

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