Project Proposal-Slave Sales 1775-1865

The data set I have chosen to use for my data analysis project is “Slave Sales 1775-1865”. The data included in this set includes, state and county in which a transaction took place and the gender and appraised value of an individual being sold from the Revolutionary period to the close of the Civil War and after emancipation. Other information included in this data set is skills and any physical “defect” found in a particular person. As far as types of data, there is numeric, text, and geographic information included, which makes this a particularly detailed study. The geographic landscape shown within the data places the transactions were recorded in southern states,a fact that is not surprising. This is a substantial set of data, with over 76,000 entries, so it will definitely require more narrowing of scope and number. I think that perhaps using a sample of just the 1810s-1860s, or maybe an even narrower range, perhaps 1850-1865 would be the project more cohesive.

Each column paints a particular picture of a time and place in the development of the institution of slavery in the south, and the literal human cost. Each of the rows plays an important role in forming the narrative of the dataset. From each state and county within the state, the people being bought and sold are described in the very simplest of terms, as they are no different than any other commodity bought and sold on a daily basis. We get an age, in years and months both and gender. We also know if any of these persons had special skills that could make them particularly more sought after. These include cooks and cabinetmakers, even drivers. Finally, the defects of a certain person are also recorded. Many are marked as “crippled” or old. Perhaps most interesting and disturbing is that “child” is considered a defect.

There are some relationships that come to the surface in analyzing this dataset. One that immediately comes to mind is that between skills and appraised value. It seems that those with skills did seem to be more expensive than someone who was unskilled, or perhaps a woman. Which brings another relationship worth exploring-the relationship between gender and appraised price. Did women necessarily fetch a much lower or a comparative price during sales transactions.
A third relationship that could yield interesting results and research questions is that between states and number of slave sales. In the south, did one state conduct more sales than others, or were they all near average? In looking at the data, the years and decades of the sales could also prove to show interesting conclusions. Of course a drop off in slave sales could be seen in during the Civil war, but what about before than. What sales were made during the early decades of the 1800s? I think that these relationships could effectively be shown graphically, but also using a progression map. By making this dataset interactive, the viewer can more effectively make use of the information presented.
Some difficulties that can arise when analyzing and answering these would probably come from the data itself. Though this is quite a large sample, it isn’t as detailed as other sets.There is only basic information available (ie. gender,age) that does not, on the surface create a well rounded narrative.I feel that information such as where these enslaved people came from or even a name could tell us more and create better visuals. Another difficulty is in the fact that some of the entries are missing, perhaps a problem of transcription or simply loss of records.

Project Proposal: Albany 8th Militia, ethnicity/complexion and officers

The dataset I’ve chosen to work with is the Albany Muster Rolls 8th Militia dataset. It is a census of recruits for the Revolutionary war in the early 1760s, and is a textual dataset. There are a total of 944 men listed in this dataset, with 13 categories filled out. These categories include last name, first name, enlist date, age, where the recruit was born, what their previous occupation was, whose command they were under, their physical attributes, and what volume and page their information could be found on in the physical text.

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Project Proposal: Albany Muster Roll- 8th Militia

The data set that I will be using for the final project is the Albany Muster Rolls for the 8th Militia. This set includes important numeric and text information of 945 different men were enlisted in this local militia. Organizes by name the categories of collected information include each individual’s enlistment date, age, Militia Company, and trade. Additional information that is particularly interesting to me is the physical descriptions of these Albany men and how they relate to their place of birth. Descriptions include height, complexion, hair color, and eye color.

I believe that this data set can help discuss the construction of race in the mind of the individual that collected the muster roll. My goal is to create a visual representation of the connection between Birth Place and Complexion in order to discuss the construction of race. I will also be attempting to draw a connection between race and trade. I think it would also be interesting to look at the connection that birthplace and complexion may have on which officer they reported to in order to detect any forms of segregation based on ethnicity

There are some challenges in working with the Albany Muster Roll for the 8th Militia in that the labeling of complexion is subjective to the individual that collected the data and the terms that this individual used include: dark, swarthy, fair, brown, Indian, negro, pockpitted, freckled, mulatto, and ruddy. These terms are far from standardized and I will be interested to see if there is a clear connection to their birth origins. Another issue that I cannot ignore is the high levels of men listed as ‘laborers’, which again does not give me a clear idea of their trade. What that does tell me is that there pay be some significant importance of the trades that are specified such as: tailor, carpenter, shoemaker, weaver, butcher, blacksmith, saddler, cord winder, hatter, and others. Through the mindset of a militia these skills have deep value; or at least value to the man collecting the information. As far as the visualizations, it will be a challenge to give a full depiction of these large categories of race, trade, and origin while maintaining the legibility of the visualizations. I think relationship networks may prove useful for this project.

Cool Stuff Week

 Where to Start? On Research Questions in The Digital Humanities

This article considers methods for developing research questions in the field of digital humanities, and attempts to answer the question of whether a research question should be posed first, and then a digital tool should be found that can display the answer to that question, or if a tool used in digital humanities (giphy, etc) should be decided upon, and then a research topic that can be best answered through that tool should be chosen. The author of the article, Trevor Owens, states his belief that a research question should be the first aspect of a project to be developed, as it is the reference point around which any project is based. He also states that research questions often change as a project progresses, implying that choosing a research question based on a specific tool would be ineffective since the question is likely to change along the way. He goes on to suggest that digital humanities tools can be instrumental in invalidating research questions, and are, therefore, an integral part of the research process, not the element around which a research project should be based.

How to Get a Digital Humanities Project Off the Ground

This article evaluates potential first steps in the process of beginning a digital humanities project. The author, Paige Morgan, like Trevor Owens, states that research questions are subject to change, so graduate students doing these projects should avoid trying to connect them to their dissertations. The author also suggests identifying any potential issues early on in order to avoid them stopping a project in its tracks after substantial time has been put into research, as well as to do the proper research to insure that there are no similar projects. If there are, that does not necessarily the end of a project, as they can take different approaches and end up with varying results. On that note, Morgan also suggests to individually take varying approaches, including experimenting with different platforms. The one point on which Morgan seems conflicted is whether to make a digital humanities project that is in process public in order to gain feedback due to the risk of plagiarism.

You Got the Documents. Now What?

In this article, author Jonathan Stray identifies the best methods for extracting data from documents. He states that the first step in doing this is to take paper documents and turn them into digital documents, thus making them easier to share and analyze. It is also emphasized that  they must be converted into text documents, as pdf’s and images are not good for much more than reading on a screen. Thus, it is important to remember that digital tools used for analyzing data are not compatible with pdf’s. Throughout the article, Stray repeatedly highlights the stark contrast between documents and data. Additionally, the point is accentuated that, whenever possible, data analysis should be automated, and not manual. In order to make that easier, Stray recommends gaining familiarity with the many functions various tools used in analyzing and visualizing data. The tools suggested by the author are Overview and DocumentCloud, which he states should be used for publication.


Twine is a digital program that allows users to create interactive stories. As demonstrated by the samples of games (I played ‘Sewer Diamond War of 3096 Reenactment’ and ‘Happiness Simulator’) and it is basically like using an interactive flowchart with if/then questions. Twine is something that could be potentially used for displaying, though not necessarily analyzing, data.

Physical Computing

An Arduino is a type of small computer that can be programmed in order to create interactive museum exhibits while remaining unseen by visitors. Unlike larger computers used to program exhibits, which can run a few thousand dollars, Arduino starts at just $30. A major benefit of Arduino seems to be its compatibility with numerous types of exhibits, as it is cited as having been used in science exhibits relating to brain usage and the weight of human compared to dinosaurs, as well as art exhibits that can move independently or interact with visitors, blurring the lines “between art and robotics.’ In addition to creating cutting edge exhibits inexpensively, Alicia M. Gibbs’ article states the Arduino can be instrumental in improving the preservation process, as exhibits can be saved digitally.

3D Printing

“Please Feel the Museum: The Emergence of 3D Printing and Scanning” discusses the fact that the advent of 3D printing art and objects can be cost effective for museums creating exhibits, as 3D printed replicas of objects can be created that visitors can touch and otherwise interact with. However, the article expands beyond museums, stating that 3D printing can be instrumental in teaching in a hands-on manner, which can be beneficial considering the extent to which ‘interactive’ learning occurs in front of a screen. The article also implies that 3D printing can protect museum objects, as visitors will often photograph them in order to examine them more closely later on. However, with 3D replicas of museum collections, visitors can examine objects as closely as possible while still in the museum. 3D printing can also teach professionals to look more closely at objects and artwork, as creating a 3D replica is achieved through photogrammetry, which involve photographing the objects from every possible angle. Mistakes and missed angles in a final product can spur further analysis of the objects. Additionally, the ability to make replicas of museum collections through 3D printing can allow the same object to be displayed to the public at different museums simultaneously.
In “Harvard’s 3D-Printing Archaeologists Fix Ancient Artifacts,” author Joseph Flaherty discusses the practice of photomodelling, through which sculpture fragments can be photographed and recreated through 3D printing. This technology can not only essentially revive art and objects from the dead, but can also potentially be used in fields such as forensics. The Smithsonian’s online 3D art exhibit allows for close examination of museum objects from the comfort of any computer. The 3D models available on the website show the color, texture, and imperfections of objects, and can be turned, adjusted, and scrutinized at any angle. This could be a major step for research, as grant money could potentially be saved through students being able to review items in the collections of far away museums and institutions from home.


1.) How effective would a 3D exhibit in a museum really be? Would people be less likely to want to visit if 3D replicas of objects are being displayed rather than the originals?

2.) Would having 3D interactive exhibits available online (such as the Smithsonian) reduce actual visitation to museums?

3.) How could 3D printing and Arduinos help historic house museums and other historic sites?

4.) Can interactive exhibits or Arduinos survive in the long run? After their novelty has worn off, will they still be as interesting or valuable as art and other objects from the past?

Final Project- Walking/ Driving Tour of Former Movie Theaters in Albany

Identify your theme and how it is unique from the existing tours of Albany Walks for Health. What are the closest related tours? How does your tour differ from the related tours?

The theme of my walking tour will be the exploration of the former sites of the plethora of palatial movie theaters that once existed in Albany, New York. Although many of the locations that will be included on the tour were still occupied by the movie theaters in question as recently as the 1980’s, the change in the way in which movie theaters appeared and were operated over the past hundred years will be made evident through descriptions of the bygone theaters compared to the contemporary theaters with which participants on the tour are familiar. This theme is unique from the existing tours on Albany Walks for Health as movie theaters are significantly more modern than the themes on the Walks for Health, which predominantly span from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. Additionally, due to the nature of this project, the locations on my tour, unlike an abundance of the locations on the Walks for Health, are no longer existent.
The closest related tour on the Albany Walks for Health to the tour that I am going to create is Tour #7: Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany. Unlike most of the other tours on the Walks for Health, ‘Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany’ takes participants to more contemporary locations, such as the Egg, which was built in the 1960’s, and the Times Union Center, which was not even constructed until 1990. Additionally, both my tour and ‘Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany’ appertain to leisure activities enjoyed by Albany residents and visitors. Unlike ‘Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany,’ which includes a variety of types of entertainment venues, such as theaters (the Palace Theater, Park Playhouse) and concert halls (the Washington Armory) my tour will only feature locations that were once movie theaters. Another tour featured in Albany Walks for Health that is similar to my movie theaters tour is ‘The Leisures of Albany.’ Like ‘Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany,’ ‘The Leisures of Albany’ is homologous to my tour because it is about recreational activities in Albany. Also like “Entertainment Centers of Downtown Albany,’ ‘The Leisures of Albany’ features locations for an assortment of leisure activities, including theaters such as the Palace Theater and parks such as Washington Park, and museums such as the Albany Institute of History and Art, whereas my tour will only contain movie theaters.

What is the organizing theme or story for your tour? Who is the audience for this tour? What’s the big takeaway point that the visitor will get from your tour?

Since movie theaters began to emerge in the final years of the nineteenth century, they have grown into one of the most popular and prominent venues in the entertainment industry. The multi-screen movie theaters that we know today, often operated by a chain (Regal, AMC, etc) deviate greatly from those that existed up until even the mid to late twentieth century. Older movie theaters, also called ‘cinemas’ or ‘movie houses,’ were formerly built to create a memorable overall experience that extended beyond the viewing of a film. They would often include ornate architecture, sumptuous lounges, and one large theater. This tour will explore the many opulent theaters that once existed in Albany, but were closed down in lieu of theaters that boasted multiple screens and that were able to show more movies to more people simultaneously. Additionally, many of the theaters on this tour are further tied to Albany’s history  as they were named after locations or prominent figures in Albany’s history.
This tour is geared towards Albany residents. Participants who have grown up in Albany may be interested to learn about the sheer number of now unassuming locations that once housed movie theaters. In addition, older Albany residents can enjoy the nostalgia of visiting the sites of theaters that they might have frequented in times past.
Participants on this tour should come away with a better understanding of how the notion of what defines a movie theater has changed over time. Many people are already aware (and, if not, will be informed on the tour) that the modern movie theater evolved from Vaudeville theaters. Through reading about movie theaters that once existed in familiar locations in Albany, participants taking this tour can attain a greater level of comprehension regarding the early incarnations of movie theaters and the fact that they were the midpoint between the exalted Vaudeville theaters of the nineteenth century and the utilitarian theaters with which we are familiar today. Additionally, participants of this tour will be able to glimpse into Albany’s history by showing them the different way in which people of the past engaged in a familiar activity in a familiar place.

Identify at least four potential locations. Briefly describe the historical location and what is currently at that location.

1.) Hellman Movie Theater– Located at 1365 Washington Avenue in Albany, the Hellman Movie Theater was constructed in 1960. Art deco in style, the theater originally featured a lobby, lounge and single screen, though it was divided into two screen during the 1980’s after being taken over by United Artists. The theater was built by Neil Hellman, also known for building the Neil Hellman Library at the College of Saint Rose, and is named as a memorial to his father, Harry Hellman. The Hellman Theater was demolished in 1989, and the site in which it once stood is now occupied by the Washington Center for Medical Arts, which leases office space to various medical practices.

2.) Eagle Movie Theater– Opened in 1928 on Hudson Avenue and Eagle Street (for which it is named) in Albany, the Eagle Movie Theater was housed in a defunct arsenal that was constructed in 1858. In 1938, the theater was remodeled an reopened as the ‘New Eagle Theater.’ The theater operated for three decades as a popular entertainment venue with a single screen and 830 seats. However, a decline in attendance in the 1950’s led to the theater staying in business through an agreement with local schools to show children’s specials on Saturday afternoons. In 1962, the state of New York acquired the site through eminent domain, and it was demolished in order to construct the South Mall arterial of the Empire State Plaza. The site is now occupied by the Albany County Probation Department.

3.) Harmanus Bleecker Hall– Opened in 1888 and named for attorney, congressman, and foreign ambassador, Harmanus Bleecker, Harmanus Bleecker Hall was originally opened as a regular theater. However, in 1929 it was remodeled to become a single screen motion picture theater with 2,070 seats. This sumptuous theater was decorated with tones of brown and gold that were highlighted with shades of blue red and green. Unfortunately, the theater, which was located at 331 Delaware Avenue in Albany, was destroyed in a fire on May 6, 1940. The site, which is now occupied by the Delaware Branch of the Albany Public Library, is nearby the still operational Spectrum 8 Theaters, which was opened soon after the fire that destroyed Harmanus Bleecker hall.

4.) Ritz Movie Theater– Located in a former jailhouse at 21 South Pearl Street in Albany, the Ritz Movie Theater first opened in the 1920’s. In 1941, the theater was purchased and operated by Warner Brothers. This single screen, 1,125 seat theater began to decline in popularity once the majority of households began acquiring televisions. Like the Eagle Movie Theater, the Ritz Movie Theater was ultimately demolished to make way for the construction of the Empire State Plaza. The Times Union Center now stands on its former site.

5.) Leland Movie Theater– Located at 43 South Pearl Street in Albany, the Leland Theater replaced the Trimble Opera House that was destroyed in a fire during the mid-nineteenth century. It was reopened in 1873 as the Leland Opera House, and was converted for Vaudeville and movies in 1906 and renamed the Leland Theater. With one screen and 1,350 seat, the Leland Theater remained popular until, like the Trimble Opera House before it, it was destroyed in a fire in the early 1960’s. It’s former location is now occupied by apartment and office space.

Text and Digital History

1.Movie NGrams
The first tool in this week’s reading was Bookworm Movies. Within these databases, a user can change the corpus of the search and view trends in areas such as dialogue in films based on text. In the accompanying blog post, “Sapping Attention”, the author uses Bookworm to view trends in language and the subject matter discussed in films. It is due to collections of metadata available in places such as IMDB, the writer contends, that allows users to better view trends. Metadata such as writer,director, and country of origin can give a more complete picture of trends in film.
This was actually a really fun page. Through this portal, a user can view trends in a variety of different subjects. Along with the Movie NGrams there is Vogue, babynames, and Rate My Professor, all popular web pages. This particular part of Bookworm is known as Culturomics,and focuses on content which would fit under mainly entertainment or popular culture. There are also other databases like OpenLibrary and US Congress hold trends in government and literature.

3.Historic Newspaper NGrams
This NGram is in the same vein as the Culturomics databases. It shows a very large example of historic newspapers (7m texts, 212 billion words). The default search criteria, “bicycle” showed a rise in the mention of this form of transportation in the mid-1890s. When you click on the line on the graph, you can view both the frequency within a particular year and also the text.

4.Mining the Dispatch
This piece focuses on the Richmond newspaper, the Dispatch, and its significance in uncovering the Confederate capital during the tumultuous years of the Civil War. Historian Kenneth Noe contends that although it was the center of much political and social change, much about Richmond during these years is relatively unknown.This particular text project, “Mining the Dispatch” aims to open up the conversation about this time and place by using text. The time frame used in this database is from Lincoln’s election in 1860 to the evacuation of the City in 1865. This collection encompasses 24 million words in 12,000 pieces. This system uses Topic Modeling, a process that uses statistics to categorize texts and form patterns from them. Through software called MALLET, the program collects specific numbers of topics from documents using algorithms to display patterns. A topic is defined in this piece as “a group of words that are likely to appear together in the document”(“Mining”). The author uses slavery as a topic example and a model basis. Through graphs, two aspects of data can be discovered, thematic, through relative space occupied graphs, and generic, which is shown through graphs that count the number of articles where “proportion is above the specified level”(“Dispatch”).

5.NYT Chronicle
This NGram focuses on the records of the New York Times, and uses keyword searches to show trends within the content of the written works from 1860 to the present. I used the examples of slavery, civil rights, and Jim Crow, after reading the “Mining the Dispatch” piece and was interesting to see the trends and their correspondence to the time periods included within the data. For example, there was a rise in the mention of Civil Rights around the 1960s.

Voyant is a Text tool that allows the user to insert a page into the reader, where patterns are created from the given information. I uploaded a reading from another class and began messing around with the program. The user can click on any word in the document, and it will show the frequency of that word in the piece. The program also gives a brief summary of the corpus,giving frequency of unique words and the most frequently used words.

7. Getting Started With Voyant
This page is a user-friendly guide to using voyant. It show how to upload not just single pages, but HTML, XML, and PDF content. It then show she different skins shown within the program including the summary, cirrus(word cloud), and corpus reader. This piece also tells the reader how they can bookmark particular corpora, and export them unto sites such as blogs.

8.Comparing Corpora in Voyant
This particular piece shows how to upload corpora on voyant in order to compare patterns. It shows a step-by-step guide on how to export multiple corpora by saving one corpus and adding it to another example,by enabling the “difference” function. The end result is that one can view the comparison of word frequencies in both corpora.

Questions for Discussion
What are the benefits of using software such as voyant or bookworm in research? What are some difficulties?
How could these technologies strengthen the connections between the humanities and other fields?
Are these technologies the new frontier in research? Could they create new fields within historical practice?

Zotero, Paper Machines, and fun with words

For my project I am using Zotero and Paper Machines to analyze the American Jewish Yearbook (hereafter AJYB) for the years 1939 until 1981. During that period of publication, the AJYB was owned by the American Jewish Committee, one of the largest Jewish organizations in the United States, and thus provides a very good indication of the direction of that American Jewish leadership is trying to push the community. The AJYB began publication in 1899 and was intended to bring the diverse communities of American Jewry together. There was a concern that Jews further out in the hinterlands would not maintain their Judaism if they were not connected to the wider Jewish world. For this reason, the publication attempted to de-centralize itself from a focus on larger cities with substantially more Jews, and instead focused on American Jews overall. From its earliest publication, the AJYB had the purpose of situating American Jews in the wider Jewish world. Because of its intended purpose of chronicling matters of importance to the Jewish community both at home and abroad, because of this, a digital analysis of it is a great asset to larger work on American Jews in the twentieth century. This study focuses on the AJYB in the years 1939 until 1981. This was done in an attempt to discover the changing American Jewish relationship with Israel, and how the civil rights movement altered, or did not alter, that relationship.

The results of this project reveal just how much American Jews were concerned with international affairs. All of the Paper Machines methods reveal different parts of essentially the same story: the centrality of external events and actors on American Jewry’s perception of itself. The Holocaust, Israel, and the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union dominated the discourse on the pages of the AJYB. The fact that these places and events are featured so prominently in sections that deal with American Jewry demonstrate both the international character of American Jews, and the attempts by American Jews to deal with their position as both Americans, generally liberal ones, who were focused on American issues, and as Jews who were concerned with the plight of their co-religionists across the world.

Dunnings-log Word Cloud

Dunnings multiple word clouds

The program that offered the best general narrative history of American Jews in the postwar was a Dunnings-log likelihood word cloud. Using a word cloud filtered with the titles of sections as stop words and Dunnings-log likelihood, which helps to show over-represented words in comparison to the other pieces of data, I was able to create a rough sketch of how the topics that were discussed by American Jews changed over time. To someone familiar with American Jewish history, the topics revealed by the Dunnings-log likelihood do not come as a surprise. The earliest years in the study were dominated by a mix of words relating to both domestic and international threats to American Jews such as “German government” and “Father Coughlin” as well as significant political figures and institutions such as “President Roosevelt” and “British government”. These words reveal an American Jewish community that was concerned with the plight of European Jews, but was also focused on American interests.

As the Second World War waged at full force, and American Jews began to better, if still not fully, understand the existential threats faced by European Jewry. Jewish leaders began to organize efforts to alleviate the suffering of their co-religionists in Europe. This included linking their efforts with Zionism and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, a proposition that had hitherto been received largely with indifference on the part of American Jews. These findings are generally in line with the existing historiography with Historian Arthur Goren arguing, “American Jews confronted the enormity of the destruction of European Jewry and the urgent need to resettle and rehabilitate the one-third that had survived. This task merged almost immediately with the struggle for Jewish statehood in Palestine. Linking the solution of the problem of the survivors with the attainment of statehood created a unity of purpose on a scale unprecedented in the modern history of the Jews.” (Arthur A. Goren A Golden Decade: 1945-1955 in The American Jewish Experience edited by Jonathan Sarna New York: Holmes and Meier publishing 1997 p.296)

The results from the word cloud largely conformed to the link posited by Goren, although words relating to Zionism and European Jews begin several years before the time period discussed in his work. There is the added challenge that some of the words that come up in the word cloud do not explicitly reference Zionism or the Holocaust, but the implicit tie is clear if you have the historical background. For example, one of the words from the 1942-1943 AJYB “San Francisco” likely references the Biltmore Conference that took place in May 1942. The conference united American Zionist factions, that had previously been fighting and established Zionism as a dominate part of American Jewish discourse. In his work The Emergence of American Zionism Mark Raider describes the conference as an event that “epitomized the progress that American Zionism as a whole had taken since 1917.” (Mark Raider The Emergence of American Zionism New York: NYU Press 1998 p. 207) In addition, the same year features the words “Dr. Silver” likely a reference to Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, a prominent American Zionist leader. These words reveal one of the main challenges when working with word clouds, which is that they are most effective when one already has a background in the subject. It is easier for someone with experience to use these types of tools because there is an element of subtly to language and some words have connections or meanings that are decidedly implicit. The rest of the 1940s in this word cloud is largely dominated by words and phrases relating to European Jews and the aftermath of the Holocaust such as ‘Displaced Persons’, which, in the Jewish context referred to Holocaust survivors who were not able to return to their homes in Europe.

The words in the 1950s re-focus the American Jewish experience to the United States and center largely on the civil rights movement and gains made by African Americans. Issues such as school desegregation and Supreme Court decisions relating to African Americans dominate the word clouds. This is largely in line with the historiography that centers American Jews as part of the broader civil rights coalition and allied with African Americans. While this thesis has come under some scrutiny as of late, it still largely holds in the historiography. Cheryl Greenberg puts it best when she describes the alliance as “a cold war liberal attempt to end discrimination based on race or religion using the institutions of civil society: courts, legislatures, media, public schools and voluntary organizations.” (Cheryl Lynn Greenberg Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century New York: Princeton University Press 2006 p.115) The words featured in the word clouds for this time period generally feature words centering on government and liberal efforts to end discrimination such as ‘de facto segregation’ and ‘supreme court’.

Where the word cloud gets interesting from a historiographical perspective is in the mid-1960s. In particular, the word cloud for the 1963 issue features the phrase ‘intermarriage rate’ and the 1964 edition the phrase ‘negro antisemtism’. This is extremely telling and extremely important for understanding the American Jewish relationship with civil rights. By the late 1960s, the civil rights coalition was fracturing along ethnic lines, ultimately causing the rise of a unique brand of Jewish conservatism that centered on the projection of American power and the defense of the state of Israel in the form of neoconservatism. Like nearly all forms of conservatism, neoconservatism was based on a fear of losing position in society. In my larger dissertation argument, I argue that American Jews are concerned with rates of assimilation and intermarriage that are so high that they are potentially unsustainable to continued Jewish life in America. This is why the leaders of institutions such as the American Jewish Committee work to over emphasize this idea of antisemitism in the civil rights coalition. This connection from one year to the next would seem to indicate a correlation between the two topics.

The final decade covered in the analysis, the 1970s sees a return to a focus on foreign policy, with issues related to Israel and Palestine dominating the word cloud, with the exception of one, “Andrew Young” who was an African American ambassador whose tenure was cut short after he met with leaders from the Palestine Liberation Organization, a move that vilified by American Jewish organizations and lead ultimately to Young’s resignation. In short, if one were to look at how American Jews viewed themselves via this word cloud analysis of the AJYB, one would surmise that their fate was closely tied to the fate of Israel. Although this word cloud was by far the most straight forward in terms of telling a pretty standard narrative of 20th century American Jewish history, it nonetheless helps to reveal some of the subtleties within that standard narrative and allows for an exploration of many of the external factors that influenced American Jewry.

Large Word Cloud

large word cloud

Perhaps the most interesting result came from a tif filtered large word cloud. This word cloud showed the most used words in the corpus of what I was looking at. Because the sections of the AJYB that I looked at were centered on the United States, I expected to find references to mainly to domestic issues. Instead, I discovered that the largest word in the word cloud is ‘Israel’. This is very telling and, given that so many other words including ‘Palestine’ and ‘Zionism’ that are also related to Israel are also in the cloud, the centrality of Israel to the writers, editors, and presumably readers of the AJYB cannot be ignored. While this one publication obviously does not speak for the entire Jewish community, it does reveal larger trends in the American Jewish trend toward looking to Israel as a source of ethnic and religious identity.

Present in the large word cloud are words and phrases relating to domestic issues such as the push for civil rights such as ‘federal’, ‘teachers’, and ‘housing’. The prominence of these two themes can be seen throughout this project. This speaks to the duality that defined American Jewry in the postwar. They were at once emphasizing their American identity, but also concerning themselves with the wider Jewish world. As with the Dunnings-log word cloud, there are many words that can be put into context by someone with experience in the subject that might be missed by someone who does not work extensively in it. Some of the words in the cloud can be seen as ambiguous, unless one knows the context of their likely use and can connect them with larger trends.

Phrase Nets

As part of my work, I also created multiple phrase nets. Paper Machines allows one to make custom phrase nets, as well as allowing one to use the standard ones that the program has set up. Phrase nets allow one to see how words and phrases are connected in a given text. In this study, I used both the standard phrase nets (x equals y, x the y) and I made my own using terms that were pertinent to my research, such as ‘Israel’ and ‘antisemitism’. All of the phrase nets revealed something interesting, but perhaps the most useful was the phrase net that I ran was for the term ‘antisemitism’. That net was much smaller than the others, but the words that it connected to were very telling. The two largest words were ‘combat’ and ‘negro’. While I was certainly expecting to find references to African Americans in a phrase net such as this, I also expected to find references to right wing antisemitism in the United States and abroad, or words such as ‘Egypt’, ‘PLO’, or ‘Arab’ in reference to Israel. In my research, I also took into account the fact that the word ‘antisemitism’ has changed over the decades. While the meaning has stayed the same, the physical construction of the word has undergone a change. Anti-Semitism is the original spelling, and antisemitism is much more modern, which could potentially skew the results. With this in mind, I also ran the phrase ‘anti-Semitism’ and the top word on that phrase net was ‘Soviet’. This was certainly not surprising, as there were several attempts made over the last half of the twentieth century to alleviate the sufferings of Jews in the Soviet Union.

Another phrase net using the term ‘civil rights’ reveal the intricacies of the civil rights movement, with words such as ‘federal’ and ‘state’ mixing with words describing the impact of legislation such as ‘major’ and ‘historic’. This phrase net was less valuable than I had hoped for, as it did not really say anything about relations between African Americans and Jews, but instead emphasized government legislation. In addition, A phrase net centered on the word ‘Israel’ was also less helpful than anticipated, especially considering how central Israel seems to be to American Jews based on the various word clouds. Most of the words linked to ‘Israel’ were organizations, such as the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) or dates such as 1967. Significantly, the word ‘American’ did appear as well as ‘United’, although United could possibly be referring to the UJA and not the United States

Topic Modeling

Finally, I ran multiple topic models that gave me graphs of a change over time in word usage in the AJYB. What I was most surprised about was the domination of words relating to Israel in the topic model. Nearly every three-word phrase in some of the topic models related in some way to Israel or Palestine, certainly much more so than any other country, including the United States. What makes the topic models most interesting is that they show a strong change over time by their word use and combination of words surrounding Israel. For example, the graph shows a very prominent use of the term ‘Palestine’ early in the sample study, alongside the words ‘war’ and ‘committee’. This is a reference Palestine’s place as a refuge for European Jews during the Holocaust. As a bookend to this, the words ‘president’, ‘Carter’ and ‘Israel’ become more pronounced at the end of the graph. This is likely because of President Carter’s negotiations for a major peace treaty between Israel and Egypt at Camp David. While this combination of words is to be expected in a section focusing specifically on Israel, it is very notable that they appear in parts of the publication that are focused on the United Stats, especially since the AJYB’s stated goal is write on Jewish communities and not on political leaders.


In some ways the programs ran on the AJYB confirmed my suspicions about the place of Israel in American Jewish discourse. The American Jewish relationship with Israel is highly touted and Jews on both the left and right have strong opinions on the state. Author Jo-Ann Mort writing in Dissent magazine in the Spring 2011 issue summed the relationship up succulently when she wrote: “It [Israel] is my home away from home, but it is also my home, the place where I feel a deep sense of connection even in the midst of a jumble of its own contradictions and my own, too. Were I to lose that “home,” the place for which I fight and keep my Jewish soul, I would finally be homeless.” (Dissent magazine vol.58 no.2 Spring 2011 p.25) This centrality of Israel to American Jewish identity can be seen in the digital analysis. One thing that is surprisingly absent, and should be noted however, is explicit references to the Holocaust. This could be because of the way that it was spoken about euphemistically, with phrases like ‘the death of the six million’ used to describe the events, or because it is hidden or implied in discussions about threats to Israel’s safety and concerns about demographics which in the discourse can sometimes emphasize a concern that high levels of assimilation might grant Adolf Hitler a posthumous victory vis-à-vis the end of Jews in the world.

One of the largest continuing controversies in the American Jewish studies historiography centers on the Holocaust and Peter Novick’s 1999 work The Holocaust in American Life which centers the event as defining American Jewish identity. That there have been large numbers of studies concerning American Jews and the Holocaust, and in my own work, I have come across references to the Holocaust extensively makes it seem odd that it is not discussed more in the AJYB. This could be because the AJYB was focused on stories that offer a breadth of knowledge and not an analysis of why events were happening, or it could be that other sections, such as ones discussing Israel have more references to the Holocaust.

-Jonathan Sarna ed. The American Jewish Experience New York: Holmes and Meier publishing 1997
-Mark Raider The Emergence of American Zionism New York: NYU Press 1998
-Cheryl Lynn Greenberg Troubling the Waters: Black-Jewish Relations in the American Century New York: Princeton University Press 2006
-Peter Novick The Holocaust in American Life. New York: Mariner Books 2000.