Toward a Spatial Narrative of the 1935 Harlem Riot: Mapping and Storytelling after the Geospatial Turn

Oct 20, 2016

Lecture at the GHI | Speaker: Stephen Robertson (George Mason University)

This lecture considers spatial narrative as a form of digital scholarship, and particularly as a means of building arguments and interpretations from the maps combining and displaying sources that have proliferated with the expansion of web-based mapping. I explore the process of shaping a narrative of the 1935 Harlem Riot based on Year of the Riot, a deep map of the Harlem neighborhood developed as an extension of the award-winning Digital Harlem project. A riot offers a particularly rich example for exploring the possibility of spatial narrative: an event that, while beginning at an identifiable origin, spirals out in multiple directions and changes over time in ways that expose the limitations of the existing linear web-based story-map authoring platforms.

Stephen Robertson is Director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, and Professor in the Department of History and Art History, at George Mason University since 2013. He is author of Crimes against Children: Sexual Violence and Legal Culture in New York City, 1880-1960, co-author of Playing the Numbers: Gambling in Harlem Between the Wars, and one of the creators of the web site, Digital Harlem, which won the American Historical Association’s inaugural Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History and the American Library Association’s ABC-CLIO Digital History Prize in 2010. Robertson is currently collaborating with Shane White and Stephen Garton on a spatial history of the 1935 Harlem riot.

This keynote lecture is part of the symposium “Creating Spatial Historical Knowledge New Approaches, Opportunities and Epistemological Implications of Mapping History Digitally.”