The Hunter family gets keys their new Delmo House fromAfrican American FSA manager Hugh Edwards
“Hugh Edwards, colored assistant camp manager, presents key to new home to Hunter family, Southeast Missouri,” [original caption] John Vachon, 1941. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division,
LC-USF34- 007635-ZE.

I am currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled “We Cleared the Land with Our Hands”: Claiming Black Community Space in the Missouri Delta, which is a revision and expansion of my dissertation. The book tells the stories of African Americans from the Deep South who migrated to the Missouri Delta during the first half of the twentieth century to build new communities, work in the lumber and land-clearing camps, and farm the newly drained cotton fields. By analyzing and mapping social networks, migration journeys, land ownership, and geographies of racial exclusion, I emphasize the ways that African Americans claimed rural space in a predominately white Border South region.

Small-scale Digital History Projects

As part of my book project, I am working on a variety of small-scale digital projects that inform my historical analysis and will be published along with the monograph text. I anticipate scaling up one or more of these projects in the future. See one example below.

Migration & Labor Patterns using Data from World War I Draft Registration Cards

This analysis originated with research questions: Who were the Black workers clearing the land, building levees,doing farm and common labor, and working in lumber camps and mills? Where were they from, whom were they working for, and where did they work? Could this information shed light on labor recruitment patterns? How did racial and labor violence shape labor geographies in the region? What were their kinship networks?

By mapping birthplace data in ArcGIS Online, I was able to see broad patterns for regional migration and differences by county within the region. For the purposes of my project, the Missouri Delta (Bootheel) is comprised of 6 counties in the the far southeast corner of Missouri. Some Black workers were local, but many migrated from further South. Individual counties had different patterns. Black men working in New Madrid County were mostly local. This may be partially explained by the fact that African Americans have lived in this county for generations. Workers in Dunklin County were nearly all from further south. The county had a history of hostility toward African Americans, but with the growth of the lumber industry, some employers like the Wisconsin Lumber Company began hiring Black workers. These large employers did not hire from within the region.

Map showing birthplace of African American World War I draft registrants in the Missouri Delta
African American WWI Draft Registration Card Birthplace Data for the Missouri Delta, 1917-1918
Map showing birthplace of African American World War I Draft registrants in New Madrid County, MO
African American World War I Draft Registration Card Data for New Madrid County, MO, 1917-1918
Map showing birthplace of World War I Draft registrants in Dunklin County, MO
African American World War I Draft Registration Card Data for Dunklin County, MO, 1917-1918