Race relations remains a central issue in American politics, economics, and culture. Interactions between African Americans and Euroamericans has been a focal point of historical archaeology for the last 30 years. The River Street Digital History Project is centered on the River Street Neighborhood, which was the historical home for most of the non-white population of Boise. This research will focus on two principal questions:
What role did race play in the lives of River Street Neighborhood residents?
How did the racialization of African Americans by Euroamericans effect the creation of whiteness as a racial construct?
The River Street Digital History project centers on the creation of a website designed to disseminate digital copies of existing archival data, short segments of newly collected oral history interviews, and photographs from private collections. The website also supports a Google Earth-based Global Information System (GIS) plugin that will be used to create a self-guided or virtual tour of the River Street Neighborhood using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. The Google Earth tour will also be linked to the reminiscences of former neighborhood residents in such a way that tourists will be able to see family photographs and listen to audio files describing a number of historical locations as they once were. The final result will be a comprehensive compendium of historical data in an easily accessible format that highlights the interesting and unique history of Boise’s largest multi-ethnic and multi-racial enclave.
In addition to providing a useful resource for Boiseans, historians interested in race relations in the United States, and others, this digital history project is also a vehicle for collecting information that will form the foundation of my doctoral project for my PhD in anthropology at the University of Arizona. The collected data will allow me to create an archaeological research design that addresses the questions that count for the local community and adds to what is known about racial interactions in Boise.
As is the story with other multi-ethnic enclaves, the River Street Neighborhood was born from the pervasive discrimination that existed throughout Idaho and the American West. Stories told by neighborhood residents, both black and white, reveal a place where people found a way to co-exist with each other despite the garish racial and ethnic categories that dictated behavior within the surrounding community. It is this story of co-existence, cooperation, and perseverance that is at the heart of what it means to be a Boisean. Telling that story is the goal of this project. In the process, the digital history project will help fill a large gap in the history of race relations in Idaho.
Click Here to see how we turned paper and audio files into a digital history website
Click Here to see the many previous research projects conduced on the River Street Neighborhood
Click Here to see the financial sponsors and individuals that made this project possible