Week 7 Website Architecture

For this week’s exercise in conceptualizing the website architecture of digital history projects, I was inspired after reading in a separate class W.J. Rorabaugh’s The Alcoholic Republic to base my website concept around the intersection of the movements for alcohol prohibition and slavery abolition. More specifically, the two issues were frequently intermingled, with most temperance warriors also being abolitionists who would treat slavery to a master and slavery to “the demon rum” as analogous issues of unfreedom. Thus, what you see below is a conceptual architecture on how I would design a site seeking to convey the conflation of slavery and alcohol prohibition.

At the homepage or “base” of the site, I would include an introduction and summary of the argument I wish to convey. From there, the site branches out into four main pages for the reader to visit in whatever order they choose. It is important to note that one of these pages is a centralized bibliography for my website, containing citations for all the secondary literature I draw from and a “pool” for all the primary source documents I incorporate into the website. The three remaining pages are each a subtopic, with the relevant primary documents stored within them (albeit, were I to actually create such a website, the question of “what documents can I have digitized?” would be a far more pressing issue than the hypothetically “ideal” documents I use as examples in my hand-drawn map). Each subtopic would contain a brief descriptive overview, along with a collection of documents where, if the visitor were to click on them, they could read them personally and view commentary and annotations. The first sub-topic, “Restricting the Enslaved”, would cover what is known about the drinking patterns of those held in bondage: many enslavers used alcohol rewards to incentivize the compliance of the enslaved, but the flow of alcohol in this context was seen as something that had to be tightly limited and controlled so as to not spark “rowdiness.” I am aware that both the former colony of West Jersey and the state of North Carolina passed laws making it illegal for slaves to purchase alcohol for this very reason, and I would use documents like these pieces of legislation for visitors to view. The next subtopic, “Dry Abolitionists”, would cover the aforementioned conflation of drunkenness and unfreedom, and would incorporate Temperance propaganda, like Herman Humphrey’s poster, “Parallel between Intemperance and the Slave-Trade” (also viewable in Rorabaugh, p. 215), along with accounts of the Black Temperance movement, such as Frederick Douglass taking the abstinence pledge. The third subtopic, “The Transnational Legacy”, would ideally be more interactive (assuming I have the technical knowhow): the conflation of alcohol and slavery bled over into the Liberian Temperance movement and into the Scramble for Africa, in which the Brussels Treaty of 1890 being signed by America and the European powers to prohibit both the slave trade and liquor trade in Africa. Ideally, I would want visitors to spatially understand the extension of abolitionism and temperance outside the US after the Civil War. Thus, this would ideally contain a map with points for where each document comes from.

 

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