Keeping the Red Record: The Project
The Racial Violence Archive (RVA) gathers and shares information related to racist violence in U.S. history. The collection focuses on terroristic acts (i.e., intimidation, violence, and reprisal used to create fear and control behavior) targeting African Americans in the 20th century U.S. South but will expand to incorporate other aspects of race-related political violence as the project continues.
The RVA incorporates and extends related collections, most notably national data on lynching compiled by historical and contemporary activists and scholars. By keeping what Ida B. Wells (1895) called "The Red Record," further documenting patterns of racist violence from the era of lynching and since, and making data, research, and engagement more accessible, the RVA aims to support scholarship, teaching, and advocacy addressing legacies of racist violence.
A Public History Initiative
The Racial Violence Archive seeks to engage various publics - students, researchers, advocates, policy makers, etc. - in reflection on historical racial violence, its legacies, and remedial effort today. The digital archive’s interactive components will enable users to view information about events; contribute new event information or add to existing records; and access related developments.
The RVA's event database compiles previously published accounts and original research in a digital archive. The archive is in essence a collection of collections where event histories are aggregated from various sources, including newspapers and periodicals, published academic works (e.g., monographs and compilations), organizational records (e.g., SNCC, NAACP), affidavits, and government reports.
Collection efforts began with a focus on the states of Mississippi and North Carolina in the Civil Rights Movement period (ca. 1955-1975), documenting nearly two thousand incidents of violence – murders, assaults, bombings, cross-burnings, police brutality, etc. – in those states over these two decades. Data collection is expanding to include other U.S. states and regions, and to include earlier 19th and 20th century events.
The archive will inevitably remain incomplete. Many events and likely most non-fatalities are poorly documented, and histories of racist violence are not reducible to discrete events. While the collection will undercount incidents and remain limited in demographic, geographic, and conceptual terms, we aim to develop one of the most comprehensive and accessible records of historical racial violence.
Initial research support for this project was provided by a collaborative National Science Foundation Grant to study “Anti-Civil Rights Enforcement in Mississippi and North Carolina, 1955-1975." Additional support for the Racial Violence Archive was provided by The University of California Center for New Racial Studies, a Multi-Campus Research Program. Special thanks to the many undergraduate and graduate research assistants at UC Irvine and Washington University in St. Louis who have contributed to this work, and to Doug Knox and Stephen Pentecost of the Humanities Digital Workshop, and Dorris Scott and Bill Winston in Data Services at Washington University in St. Louis.