Digital Red Records

On January 26, 2018, the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project 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.

About the Initiatives

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.


Amy Kate Bailey

Associate Professor
University of Illinois, Chicago


Margaret Burnham

Founder and Director
Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project

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

Elizabeth Ann Zitrin Teaching Fellow 
Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project 



Rhonda Jones 

Lead Archivist 
Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project



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
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

Margaret M. Russell 

Associate Professor of Law 
Santa Clara School of Law 


Kaylie Simon 

Project Director, Restorative Justice 
Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project 


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

Associate Director 
Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project