Transforming the Afro-Caribbean World

The University of Maryland’s Center for the History of the New America (CHNA) has partnered with the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities to develop the Transforming the Afro-Caribbean World (TAW) project to bring together scholars of the Panama Canal, Afro-Caribbean history, and experts in the digital humanities, data modeling, and visualization for a two-day planning workshop that will discuss a large-scale effort to explore Afro-Caribbean labor, migration, and the Panama Canal.

The U.S. project to construct the Panama Canal exerted a huge impact on the Americas, generating a tidal flow of migration from dozens of nations to the Panama Canal Zone in the early 20th century—and then beyond it to sites across the hemisphere, permanently altering the geography, economy, politics, and cultures of the Western Hemisphere.

The TAW workshop has several aims: 1) digitization of a subset of the proposed records to evaluate potential costs and preservation issues; 2) exploration of structured data tools to reveal new insights about these records; 3) the creation of annotated bibliographies for use by teachers and the public as they begin to explore the centennial anniversary of the opening of the canal; and 4) identification of other archives and repositories to be included in a larger project. Ultimately this start-up grant will produce a work plan and report outlining a potential large-scale collaboration to map and explore the movement of Afro-Caribbean laborers between 1903 and 1920. I currently serve as co-Primary Investigator for this project with Julie Greene of Maryland. We are working in partnership with Trevor Muñoz, Kate Keane, and the MITH and CHNA staffs.

Preliminary Project Visualizations from the Panama Canal Zone Census Report of 1912

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