In Houston, TX at the Organization of American Historians Conference, I have enjoyed catching with with friends and colleagues. I had a wonderful talk with Elizabeth R. Varon and heard about my friends at the University of Virginia, where she is now teaching Southern history. And she gave me some helpful advice on my next book project. I’m going to write about slavery and freedom in early Washington, D.C., and in particular at the case and family history of Mima Queen. The main focus will be on the Queens, and the case, which Francis Scott Key tried in the U.S. Supreme Court in 1813, and John Marshall decided. This was a petition for freedom case, and among other things established the “hearsay rule” in American law. I’ve found new documents on the case, and Liz, not surprisingly, had great suggestions for how to begin to uncover this story. The book will tell the story of early Washington, black and white, and through the lives of three generations of Queen women–Mary Queen, Mima Queen, and Louisa Queen.
The OAH session on Quantitative History revealed how historians are using new techniques of Social Network Analysis, ones that I plan to use in my next work on early Washington. Karen Wilson’s work on networks of Jewish business men and families in Los Angeles opened my eyes to how these techniques might be applied to my project on the Queens.
Melinda Miller (U.S.N.A.) explained why forty acres and a mule would indeed have made a difference in the lives of freedmen after the Civil War. Her brilliant analysis compares Cherokee Freedmen with Southern black freedmen.
And we had a mini-reunion of Valley of the Shadow folks, including Anne S. Rubin, Andrew Torget, and Amy Murrell Taylor. Missing Ed Ayers, but he was probably watching University of Richmond Spiders advance in the NCAAs.
The meeting also allowed my research team for our Railroads Digging into Data project to meet with Richard White and his Spatial History team from Stanford, including Erik Steiner and Kathy Harris. We hoped going into the meeting to drive “the golden spike” between our respective railroad data projects. No champagne, no worker strikes, no Thomas C. Durant. But we made major progress on how we might join our data and tools and collaborate on a future project. Our Aurora Engine framework for spatio-temporal visualization and analysis might be at least a common gauge–to use a railroad term.
And Oxford University Press put out The Old South’s Modern Worlds, with an excellent essay by Michael O’Brien among others.