Many people had a hand in this project. People who heard this research presented in years past at the American Academy of Religion in Atlanta, the Christian Scholars Conference in Nashville, and the Digital Frontiers Conference nearby in Denton offered meaningful, helpful feedback, and it is appreciated. Friends and colleagues made suggestions for changes to the formatting and narrative at many stages; I owe Sarah Mokuria, Claire LeBlanc, and Lauren Woods gratitude for their early interest and encouragement in this regard, and similarly am indebted to my colleagues in my current position at Paul Quinn College for their perspective when it was nearer completion–Dean Victoria Wilson, former Chief of Staff Lori Price, and Librarian Clarice Weeks. Mary Battle of the Avery Research Center at the College of Charleston persuaded me of how powerful a multi-archival approach to public history could be, both through conversation and her own indispensable work on the Low Country Digital Library; beyond her many methodological insights, her work on the public history of slavery in Charleston is an obvious touchstone for this project. I am also grateful for the encouragement and criticism I have received from several of my colleagues in the Graduate Program in Religious Studies at SMU, both as we have discussed the challenges of difficult memory and the Brooks lynching in particular. Rick Halperin, Director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, has been a great conversation partner and advocate of this research since we first worked together on it in 2009, and Assistant Director Brad Klein has also been supportive and thoughtful throughout the collaboration. Robin Lovin, my doctoral advisor, in this as in so much else has sharpened and refined my thinking in many ways.
In terms of very concrete assistance, I especially need to thank City Archivist John Slate with the Dallas Municipal Archives, Samantha Dodd at the Dallas Historical Society, as well as Adrienne Pierce and Brian McKinney at the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division of the Dallas Public Library for their kind help in identifying so many relevant and compelling materials. Anne Peterson, Curator of Photographs at SMU’s DeGolyer Library, has been unfailingly patient and enthusiastic, especially in helping sift through the great windfall of materials in the Cook Dallas/Texas Collection. In the course of a practicum at SMU’s Norwick Center for Digital Services, Cindy Boeke, Digital Collections Developer at nCDS, and John Milazzo, nCDS coordinator, helped me in every conceivable way, from identifying materials to standardizing metadata. Brad Boeke, SMU’s Director of Academic Technology services, offered me great technical advice and support. My conversations with each of these people, over the course of many months, have been sources of inspiration in terms of the public mission of the archive across many types of institutions. Their commitment and ingenuity give me hope for what other possibilities for the democratization of difficult memory are yet to be realized.
To speak even more concretely, I am grateful to my friends Emily and Spencer Bogle, with whom a standing child-care-swapping agreement allowed the practicum with the Norwick Center to happen at all. The greatest benefit of this was how much fun our kids had together, my memories of playing with them, and coffee twice a week with both of you. But the sensibilities of the project itself really are shaped by your friendship, too, by nothing so much as our shared hope that our children will inherit a world with more tenderness. And of course, indelibly, the driving force of all this remains my wife, Lauren, who can hardly bear to glance at the finished product because of the grim and painful images it contains. You never let me forget what is at stake in telling the truth, or for whose sake we need to tell it. May it ever be so.
Christopher J. Dowdy, March 3, 2015