New grant funds are assisting Clark Atlanta University (CAU) to develop its digital humanities department.

“We are thankful to the Mellon Foundation for this incredible gift that furthers our ability to study our past and understand how the continuum of history informs our present and shapes our future,” said Dr. George French, president of CAU.

Clark Atlanta University was recently awarded a $578,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to use over three years.

The funds will help to create digital humanities infrastructure. Digital humanities is an interdisciplinary field that includes various topics in humanistic research while incorporating digital tools and quantitative methodologies.

A relatively new field, examples of work include mapping neighborhoods, mining texts or digital storytelling.

“We are building on the legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois, who created a series of data portraits while at Atlanta University,” said Rico Chapman, associate dean of CAU’s School of Arts and Sciences and director of the Humanities Ph.D. Program.

“This work, completed more than one hundred years ago, is foundational to current practices in digital humanities, where data visualization is critical in making research findings accessible to a broader audience,” he continued.

According to Chapman, the university will use the funds to:

  • Organize faculty development workshops that introduce various computational tools and concepts that can be used in the classroom or included in collaborative research projects
  • Conduct summer institutes focused on the context necessary to understand digital humanities and its relationship to the recovery, honoring, preservation, and storytelling of the black experience

The desire for the new infrastructure stems from a series of workshops and a summer institute.

In April, a three-day workshop collected input from the Atlanta University Consortium Center professors and CAU doctoral students.

Another session focused on the work of the recently launched Ida B. Wells JUST Data Lab at Princeton University, which was led by renowned professor Dr. Ruha Benjamin.

“Our university’s mission is to uplift lives. We enjoy fuller, more purposeful lives when we understand the richness of our past and can pass that knowledge on to our children, who will be made stronger and more resilient for it. This is a gift for them as much as for us,” French said.

CAU also intends to host an interdisciplinary Historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) Africana Digital Humanities conference. The conference will be open to all scholars from HBCUs. It will explore history, sociology, politics, and the arts using technology as a means of recovery and knowledge production.

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