Three Questions with Amy E. Earhart

Three Questions is an initiative to share the value that our faculty, students, and external patrons derive from using the Portal to Texas History at UNT Libraries.

1. How important is the Portal in your teaching, learning or research?

The Portal is an invaluable resource in my research and teaching. In July of 1868, a shift towards equality for Blacks after Reconstruction incited one of the largest “race riots” in Texas, known today as the Millican Massacre. As I have developed the Millican Massacre 1868 digital project I have returned, again and again, to the materials included in the Portal, particularly the Texas newspapers. This rich set of documents has allowed me to bring the story of an important but undertold history to the general public. In addition, I have used the Portal in my courses, incorporating research and digital humanities assignments that would not otherwise have been possible. Students are able to locate historical materials that bring depth and nuance to the literary texts that we read. In addition, they benefit from examining the way that the Portal categorizes and organizes information, leaving my classes with a better understanding of the why and how of research.

2. How has the Portal changed the way you approach your research, teaching or learning?

The open access materials in the Portal have allowed me to position students as active learners and researchers, revealing how scholars work with large archives to reach conclusions about historical events. Students often have an Oh! moment when working with the historical newspapers, in particular, understanding the nuances of how incidents of racial violence were discussed in the press. As I have researched the Millican Massacre I have introduced descendants and community members to the information freely available in the Portal. They are amazed at the information that they might locate and grateful for what the Portal tells them about their families and their communities.

3. What do you want others to know about your research, teaching or learning?

My work on the Millican Massacre has largely focused on returning this important historical event to contemporary knowledge. With the Portal I have been able to document the events, and with this research, much obtained in the Portal materials, we have received a Texas Historical marker to ensure that the massacre is not forgotten. Further, my research is merged with teaching as well as community outreach in order to best meet the needs of those who continue to be impacted by the reverberations of such violence. I am a literary scholar who is interested in how the events of 1868 Millican are narrated, told, and retold and how those narratives continue to impact us. The public facing digital humanities site, soon to be relaunched with additional materials, allows users to not only learn about the event, but to examine primary sources. Without the Portal my research and teaching would be far less complete.

Amy E. Earhart is Associate Professor of English and affiliated faculty of Africana Studies at Texas A&M University. She has published a monograph Traces of Old, Uses of the New: The Emergence of Digital Literary Studies (U Michigan Press 2015), a co-edited collection The American Literature Scholar in the Digital Age (U Michigan Press 2010), and a number of articles and book chapters in volumes including the Debates in Digital Humanities series, DHQ, DSH: Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, Digital Studies/Le champ numérique, and Textual Cultures. Her current book, “A Compromised Infrastructure: Digital Humanities, African American Literary History and Technologies of Identity,” is under advance contract with Stanford University Press. Earhart has also published digital projects constructed to expand access to African American literary and cultural materials, as is the case with projects The Millican Massacre, 1868, DIBB: The Digital Black Bibliographic Project, and “Alex Haley’s Malcolm X: ‘The Malcolm X I knew’ and notecards from The Autobiography of Malcolm X”. Awarded a NEH-Mellon Fellowship for Digital Publication in 2020 as well as other grants, Earhart has also won several teaching awards, including the University Distinguished Achievement Award from The Association of Former Students and Texas A&M University.