The Fillmore Boys School in 1877: Racial Integration, Creoles of Color, and the End of Reconstruction in New Orleans is a digital history project that analyzes the 1877 register of the Fillmore Boys School, one of the desegregated schools in New Orleans between 1871 and 1877. The project aims to reveal New Orleanians’ micro-level experiences of school desegregation, focusing on Creoles of color, a group of francophone Catholics of African descent.
The project deploys the three different digital and historical methodologies below.
1) Spatial Analysis: geographical characteristics of the student residential information from the 1877 Fillmore School register (Main Tool: ArcGIS)
2) Social Network Analysis: social connections among Fillmore students and their parents (Main Tool: NodeXL)
3) Family Histories: digital narratives of students and their families (Main Tool: ancestry.com)
Why “Digital” Matters in This Project?
While the 1877 Fillmore Boys School register does not convey any political discourse or direct voice from the students, the admission list contains extensive individual student data. Digital techniques, in this case, GIS and network analysis, can process and visualize the students information in a way otherwise impossible to depict. These examinations raise new perspectives and questions in understanding the importance of school desegregation among Creoles of color and the complexity of race and ethnicity among the students.
The questions that emerged from the digital experiments include:
- What did motivate Creoles of color to send their children to the Fillmore Boys School? Were there more than geographical reasons? What kinds of social connections might have contributed them to choosing the Fillmore School?
- How do digital techniques help identify Creoles of color whose roles were not recognized well in history, especially when their racial and ethnic characteristics were unclear and changeable? Are their ways to represent ambiguities through a digital history project?
The Fillmore Boys School in 1877 project not only visualizes the state of desegregation at the end of Reconstruction by using digital technologies, but also will contribute to the emerging field of digital history by exploring the possibility of representing historical ambiguities of race and ethnicity.
The Fillmore Boys School in 1877 has been created through my fellowship from the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative Fellow Program initiated by the Digital Innovation Lab (DIL) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. My work has been supported by a group of scholars, students, archivists, genealogists, and families from various institutions and organizations.
First of all, I would like to thank Drs. Bobby Allen, Pam Lach, and Michael Newton of the Digital Innovation Lab for bringing me to the world of digital humanities. Their critical questions and advice prompted me to think about how digital techniques can reveal untold histories.
The Fillmore School Project Team
Second, I would like to show my appreciation to the Fillmore School project team. Bailey Jones worked as a research assistant from February to June 2014. It would have been impossible to transcribe and process more than 650 data entries on time without her prompt and precise work. Stephanie Barnwell of the Digital Innovation Lab managed the project plan and finances, coordinated meetings, and advised me on project documentation. Bailey, Stephanie and I worked together to move the project forward.
Technological and Methodological Support
As a CDHI fellow, I was privileged to acquire new digital tools to enhance my historical research. I would like to thank Dr. Rebecca G. Dobbs for teaching me how to use ArcGIS and introducing me to the field of historical GIS. I also would like to express my gratitude to Amanda Henley of Davis Library for offering me a kind instruction about ArcGIS Online. Dr. Marten Düring taught me historical network analysis. This website project could have not been done without their tutelage.
I also like to thank my advisors, Drs. Heather A. Williams and W. Fitz Brundage for encouraging me to engage in a digital history project and for their advice in understanding the importance of the Fillmore Boys School in the racial desegregation struggle of Creoles of color in New Orleans.
New Orleans Archives and Institutions
This website cannot be made without the generosity of various archives in New Orleans.
University of New Orleans
I would like to thank Dr. Florence Jumonville and James Lien of the University of New Orleans, Louisiana Special Collection for allowing me to examine the Fillmore School register and display my work online.
At the Notary Archive, Sally K. Reeves kindly permitted me to use the Robinson Atlas of 1883 for mapping the Fillmore students’ addresses. She also assisted me in finding the information about the school.
New Orleans Public Library
I also would like to mention Irene Wainwright and Greg Osborn of the New Orleans Public Library for letting me use photos from their collection and sharing their knowledge about the history of Creoles of color.
I have received immense supports from New Orleans scholars, archivists, genealogists and families whose ancestors sent their sons to the Fillmore School in 1877.
Dr. Al Kennedy shared his profound knowledge of the Orleans Parish School Board records with me. Gena Chattin of the Earl K. Long Library directed me to the digital version of the school board minutes. Drs. Mary N. Mitchell, Connie Z. Atkinson and Caryn Cossé Bell connected me with various New Orleans historians and shared their knowledge of local historical materials.
I cannot thank enough for the generous help from Lolita Cherrie and Jari Honora in identifying students of Creole descent, and Madame Barbara Trevigne and Tami Bertonneau Hurd for sharing their family histories. I also like to thank Dr. Thomas Bertonneau and Fay Baldwin for their generous permission to use their family photos for my website.
Last but not least, I am grateful to Dr. Guenter Bischof for introducing me to the circles of New Orleans intellectual communities. The Bischof, Boulet and Roff families helped make my stay in New Orleans comfortable and enjoyable. As a native Japanese speaker, writing in English is always a challenge, Michele Fletcher helped me and taught me how to convey my thoughts effectively in my second language.
I hope that this project will not only add to the emerging field of digital history but also contribute to revealing unknown parts of New Orleans and family histories.