To me, pictures are like blintzes – ya gotta get ‘em while they’re hot.” —Weegee
[W]hen the government hides court opinions describing unconstitutional government action, America’s national security is harmed: not by disclosure of our intelligence capabilities, but through the erosion of our commitment to the rule of law.
It was just a few weeks ago that Myrlie Evers saw for the first time the high-powered, .30-06 Enfield rifle that her husband’s assassin had used, now exhibited at the Mississippi Department of Archives.
“I walked in there and there was that rifle, encased in the plexiglass, and I stopped cold,” she recalled. “All kinds of emotion ran through me. One was hate. That was the weapon that took my husband from me and my children’s father from them. …
“Then I focused on the trigger. It was evil, in my eye, at that moment. Something made my eye follow the rifle to the end, where the fire came out that took Medgar’s life. And I could see his body sprawled there with this massive hole in his back, and I felt the heat in my chest that represented the strong emotions that I had. But something happened and it changed my vision of that rifle.
“It took his life and that fire that came out of the barrel represented freedom — freedom for Medgar in that he did not have to struggle anymore. He did what he had to do, and his death moved this country forward.”
Everybody Knows about Mississippi: Cold Case Map
I’ve been experimenting some with how to visualize the data I’ve collected for the dissertation—lynching statistics and memorials, eugenics programs and reparations, and the like. Data visualization probably is something ethicists are not supposed to dabble in, but here we are.
If anybody has thoughts about mapping tools with simple interfaces, please let me know. I’ve tried OpenHeatMap some and it is useful, though it exposes my ignorance of code. What I’ve posted above—if the embed is not working properly, you can follow the link here—traces the civil rights cold cases being re-investigated under the 2007 Till Act. The basic numbers come from the November 2012 Attorney General’s report to Congress.
You might notice from the map that one state, Mississippi, is quite a bit darker than the rest. I had to drop the top end of the scale down so that Georgia and Alabama still showed up as significant on the map. Mississippi has 50 cases under investigation, approximately 2.5x that of Georgia, the next highest on the list at 19. Alabama has 17. Impossibly, Oklahoma has zero, and Texas only 4.
There are a lot of questions that arise from just this basic information. Is Mississippi especially courageous in facing its past? Especially awful in its past violence? Or do they just have an especially engaged NAACP and FBI field office?
In any case, if you think that the point of the cold case investigations is to deliver closure—even reconciliation—through delayed effort at criminal justice, the unevenness of this map should bother you.
I’ll…let Nina Simone have the last word here.
More experimenting with ways of conveying data about historical injustice. Here’s an old map Slate’s Vault Blog wrote about in January, tracing lynching violence from 1900-31. And here’s a map I just inserted into the last chapter of my dissertation:
It’s built using the Tuskegee Institute Data from 1898-1968, which is problematic in some ways. I’ve grouped in white and black lynching victims together since recent research has demonstrated a tendency to group any non-black victim into the “white” category, historically. There is a larger project underway to document lynching violence comprehensively.
Ooops. I just made a plea to please share Ruby’s post, only to notice after I hit “reblog” that she got both her Twitter and Dreamhost accounts back! So queue Gilda:
I’m Ruby Sinreich. You can once again find me at lotusmedia.org and on Twitter as @ruby, because the Internet is awesome.