Technology and African-American History

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

As the Urbana-Champaign Big Broadband (UC2B) $30 million high-speed Internet infrastructure is constructed throughout Champaign-Urbana, we must come together as a community to find ways to use this technology to support all sectors of our local population. eBlackChampaign-Urbana is a project that investigates how the stories and struggles of the local African-American community can be aggregated online from multiple archives, libraries, museums and personal collections and whether this aggregation could inspire local individuals in the present and future to see technology in a new way. We are interested in helping individuals not only download content, but upload content as well, about themselves, their families, churches and community histories so that when the community goes online it will find itself.

Our latest project is to find ways to utilize the most common data-set that every community has: Yearbooks! We already have digitized the Cotillion Yearbooks, a program of Gamma Upsilon Psi that since 1972 has organized college scholarships for young African-American women in our community.

The Cotillions were started by Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta in 1972, under the leadership of Alvin Griggs, Willie Summerville and others. In 1974, Kathryn Humphrey and Margaret Smith founded Gamma Upsilon Psi Society to assist the fraternities with the Cotillion. In 1977 Gamma Upsilon Psi became the sole sponsor of the program, and has continued it to the present day. Visit the Society’s website for more information on their
upcoming Ball, to be held April 23, 2011. The Yearbooks of these events are an amazing resource, as every year they feature not only biographies of the Debutantes and their escorts, but also brief notices from area churches, businesses and individuals who sponsor the young women’s education. We are currently seeking the Cotillion Yearbooks from 2004-2008. If anyone has a copy they could lend to us to digitize we would be grateful. These digitized files will be backed up at local archives and libraries for long-term preservation.

We are currently looking at ways to make this very large collection of digital information more accessible. The digital yearbooks contain nearly 10,000 pages on local African-American history and we are experimenting with various ways to index the collection, which is already full-text searchable, transparent so that individuals can access them by name, church, school, or business. In addition to making what we have already digitized more accessible, we are also looking to extend our work by beginning a project to digitize an even larger source of information, the high school yearbooks of Champaign and Urbana public schools. This project is just getting started and we welcome all to join us. We would be happy to lead digitization workshops for groups to continue this process.

In addition to digital history, the eBlackCU project has also lead a series of events on community technology in Champaign-Urbana. Over 250 people have attended these events, held November 5 and 6, 2010, and January 8, 2011, and the full record of them is available online at We need to continue this momentum and involve more people in the process of embedding digital technology into our local community. The next event in this series will be held at the Champaign Public Library, Robeson Room A & B, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 18. This event will feature: Informational panels/discussions on: UC2B; the eBlackCU
digital library
; Jobs and technology; Youth and technology; and Churches and technology. Light refreshments will be served.

We will have computer stations with volunteer instructors set up for you to:

  1. Get an e-mail account/Facebook account if you don’t have one and want one
  2. Learn how to digitize information and take home a free CD of your digitized material. Bring in your own material (scrapbooks, flyers, photographs, books) or digitize texts we will have on site.
This entry was posted in Technology. Bookmark the permalink.