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Illustration shows exterior view of an elaborate pavilion with a flag.
Illustration of the exterior of the Republic of Haiti Pavilion at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, 1893. Part of the visual materials from the Frederick Douglass Memorial and Historical Association records, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

CCDI Celebrates Black History Month with Twitter Series

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For February 2023, the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative (CCDI) celebrated Black History Month (#BHM) with a Twitter series, joining the Library’s #BHM social media celebration. CCDI focused on the Library’s digital collections so that Black Studies researchers could learn more about the wide range of digital materials that they can remix and reuse.

The Twitter series included 12 tweet threads, covering 1970s Chicago, astrology, Alice Moore Dunbar Nelson, the Socialist Workers Party, Haiti and more. We started out the month with the OG himself, Carter G. Woodson, who co-founded Negro History Week in 1926. The Library has a wealth of materials on Woodson, including a photograph of his home office in Washington, DC. The Library has digitized some of his publications. We were particularly surprised to see a film segment of Woodson talking about the importance of Negro History Week. Woodson was one of a number of speakers featured in All-American News Reel footage during World War II. (There are 34 more news reels available in the Library’s National Screening Room. Read this blog post for more information.) This tweet was especially popular, including a retweet by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

For the tweet, we pulled out Woodson’s segment, added captions and improved the audio. Since the footage of Woodson’s speech was created in 1945, the audio is difficult to hear for most listeners. Brian Foo, CCDI Senior Innovation Specialist, created a workflow using open-source tools to clean up the audio and add captions, providing a model for enabling broader access to the Library’s digital collections.

Here’s how Brian did it in five steps:

  • Step 1: Used FFmpeg to clip the video.
  • Step 2: Opened the video file in Audacity and manually increased audio levels where appropriate.
  • Step 3: Re-encoded the video with the new audio file using FFmpeg.
  • Step 4: Manually created a caption (.srt) file which is essentially a transcript with timestamps. This is the hardest step because it requires the creator to carefully transcribe and align captions to the video which is difficult to do automatically.
  • Step 5: Embedded the captions in the video using VLC player.

Are you now inspired to caption and increase audio levels for an item in one of the Library’s free to use digital collections? We welcome you to share your reuse with us @LC_Labs.

Cover of the book, Violets and other tales by Alice Ruth Moore.
Violets and Other Tales by Alice Ruth Moore, 1895. (Rare Book and Special Collections Division.)

We also highlighted how Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson and Carter G. Woodson were active researchers in the Jefferson Building, one of the Library’s main buildings, in the early 20th century. Nelson wrote in her diary about doing research at the Library and Carter G. Woodson often walked from his home at 1538 Ninth Street, NW (now the Carter G. Woodson National Historic Site) to do research at the Library. Because the Library of Congress did not have a whites-only policy, a large number of researchers flocked to the Library in the first decades of the twentieth century, including Rudolph Fisher, for his first novel, The Walls of Jericho (1928) and Charles Hamilton Houston, as he led the NAACP’s attack on constitutional sanctioning of apartheid in the U.S.

We also reached out to our current grantees. Maya Cade, the inaugural Scholar-in-Residence, recommended three films: “Symphony in Black” (1935) by Duke Ellington; “All my babies…a midwife’s own story” (1952) featuring Mrs. Mary Coley; and “The ‘Flying Ace’” (circa 1925) featuring Kathryn Boyd and Laurence Criner.  For Huston-Tillotson University, the inaugural Higher Education grantee, we featured a 1949  photograph of students from Texas colleges protesting against racialized segregation in education. The photograph features students and NAACP leaders walking up the steps of the Texas State Capitol Building. For Kenton County Public Library, the inaugural Libraries, Archives and Museums grantee, we featured a circa 1865 photograph of a Civil War veteran from Kentucky. This beautiful image of William Johnson was quite popular.

We also tweeted about Ayiti (Haiti), the first free Black republic in the Americas, and a key country in Black diasporic liberation movements. We shared the above featured image, a map and also a multilingual resource guide created by Taylor Healey-Brooks, former Librarian-in-Residence, and Alexis Bracey, former Huntington Fellow. (Click here to learn more about the Library’s Librarians-in-Residence program.)

We closed the series on March 1 with a tweet thread about Ralph Ellison because it’s the day of his birth and because 2022-2023 is the 70th anniversary year of Invisible Man, which was published in 1952. We also closed on March 1 as a nod to Woodson who envisioned Negro History Week as a prelude to year-long celebrations of Black Studies.

We invite you to dive into the Library’s digital collections, remix an item that surprises and/or delights you and share it with us @LC_Labs.

CCDI is part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path program with support from the Mellon Foundation. This program provides fellowships and grants to individuals and institutions for projects that innovate, imagine, and remix Library materials to highlight the stories and perspectives of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color from any of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and its territories and commonwealths (Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands). Learn more about CCDI here.

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