Lives, Not Metadata: Recovery Methods for Digital Histories of Racial Violence

AuthorMonica Muñoz Martinez
Date01 March 2021
Published date01 March 2021
Subject MatterSetting the Agenda
ANNALS, AAPSS, 694, March 2021 67
DOI: 10.1177/00027162211014424
Lives, Not
Methods for
Histories of
Racial Violence
1014424ANN The Annals Of The American AcademyLives, Not Metadata
This article discusses new digital research projects by
historians, sociologists, and legal scholars that recover
previously unrecorded cases of racist violence in the
twentieth century and bring them into public view for
the first time. New cases are expanding current under-
standings of the past by documenting lynchings, racially
motivated homicides, police killings, church bombings,
and nonlethal types of violence that have targeted mul-
tiple racial and ethnic groups. Early findings from these
projects show that we only have a glimpse into wide-
spread practices of racial terror in the United States. I
argue for collecting broader sets of data about victims,
surviving relatives, aggressors, and events in the after-
math of violence, because doing so will create new
possibilities for studying widespread historical trauma,
institutional traces of racist violence, and public under-
standing of increasingly urgent historical lessons. To
keep the humanity of victims central to recovery
efforts, I suggest that researchers can learn from com-
munity preservation and memorialization practices.
Keywords: race; racial violence; policing; U.S. history;
lynching, digital history; restorative justice
Historians of race in the United States have
a key role to play in recovering and inter-
preting records of state-sanctioned racial vio-
lence, exposing uncomfortable truths, and
documenting the efforts of people who fought
for freedom and social justice. As the primary
investigator for Mapping Violence: Racial
Terror in Texas 1900–1930, I suggest that
informing scholarly and public understandings
of the past, and its relation to our present,
requires research that provides deeper insights
into climates of racial terror that shaped daily
Monica Muñoz Martinez is an associate professor of
history at the University of Texas at Austin. She wrote
the award-winning book The Injustice Never Leaves
You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas (Harvard
University Press 2018), cofounded the educational non-
profit Refusing to Forget, and is the primary investiga-
tor for Mapping Violence: Racial Terror in Texas.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT