On March 4th, the Justice Department released an 86-page report of its investigation of the Ferguson Police Department. Though the report cleared Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown last August, of any wrongdoing, this report represents a valuable composite of oral testimonies of antecedents of and proceedings of the events that resulted in months of protest in Ferguson, Missouri and around the country. This week’s Digital Archive will focus on two projects that both contextualize and preserve, respectively, those events.
A lot of the projects that I have focused on thus far in this series have been historical in nature, compiling primary source documentation into a digital repository. While this is absolutely an important use of digital technology for scholarly ends, there are so many possibilities out there, including scholarly activism. The two projects that I chose for this week show how scholarly and activist interests can intersect and interact.
Mapping Police Violence is a collection of interactive maps and data visualizations chronicling over 300 police killings of black people in the United States in 2014. The data for these maps and visualizations was pulled from three main sources: FatalEncounters.org and KilledbyPolice.net. The project also says it pulled data from the U.S. Police Shootings Database, but provides no link to this specific repository. So when looking at this data, especially if analyzing it from a scholarly standpoint, it’s incredibly important to assess it critically, but it’s hard to deny the power of the visualizations that this project provides.
The main focus of the site is on the interactive map of police violence in 2014. You can view the map through four different layers: (1) by an animated timeline of the lives lost; (2) by the locations of the killings; (3) by likelihood of a black person being killed by police; and (4) by proportion of black lives lost by state. There also several interactive data visualizations (built using Tableau) that allow you to compare police departments by various factors or analyze national trends in police killings. All of these different tools provide powerful depictions of police violence in the United States; the kind of violence that resulted in the Ferguson uprisings last year.
Documenting Ferguson is a project of a partnership between Washington University in St. Louis and a number of local libraries that “seeks to preserve and make accessible community- and media-generated, original content that was captured and created following the killing of 18-year-old, Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9, 2014.” The project is completely accessible and intended for use by students, scholars, teachers, and the community in general, with the “ultimate goal of providing diverse perspectives of the events surrounding the conflicts in Ferguson.” Integrating images, video, audio, and stories related to the memorials, community meetings, rallies, and protests occurring in Ferguson and the surrounding area, this collection of over 500 items that capture this important moment in the history of racial politics in this country.
You can contribute your own web content or media to Documenting Ferguson via the links provided. Projects like these grow and develop based on user contributions, so pass the word along to help build this critical archive.
As always, feel free to send me suggestions in the comments or via Twitter of sites you might like to see covered in future editions of The Digital Archive! We’ve been getting some good suggestions from readers that will be reviewed soon!
(Many thanks to Jill Kelly for letting me know about these awesome projects!)