Map of southern africa with the territories of Khama, Sebele, and Bathoeng [sic] outlined in red.

Thematic Initiatives

First author: Adrian S. Wisnicki (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Second authors: Ng’ang’a Wahu-Mũchiri (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Hope McCaffrey (Northwestern University)

Indu Ohri (Boston University)

Caitlin Matheis (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Date (publication and updates): 2021-22

First author: Adrian S. Wisnicki (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Second authors: Ng’ang’a Wahu-Mũchiri (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Hope McCaffrey (Northwestern University)

Indu Ohri (Boston University)

Caitlin Matheis (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

  1. Overview
  2. Thematic Initiatives
    1. Recovering the Histories of Land Treaties in East and Southern Africa (2024, anticipated)
    2. William Ivens Craft and the Victorian Atlantic World (2023, anticipated)
    3. Unsung Voices of Color: An Undisciplined Anthology of Folklore and Supernatural Fiction, 1868-1930 (2023, anticipated)
    4. Corpus of Africa-Centered Literary Works, 1830-1930 (2021)
  3. Page Citation
  4. Lead Image Details


This page introduces a series of thematic initiatives – most of them still on-going – that support the mission of One More Voice. The growth of these initatives reflects the central objectives of the project's second development phase, but also builds on a foundational characteristic of One More Voice as a relational initiative, one that operates in solidarity with and in support of other people and projects.

Thematic Initiatives

Recovering the Histories of Land Treaties in East and Southern Africa

Names of several individuals, some with an “X” beside their name that is labeled as “his mark.”

Montsioa, Seani Taonua [Tawana], Seru Taonua [Tawana], Kebalipéli Montsioa [Kebalepili Montsioa], Israel Molema, Bathobatho Montsugare [Nlotshegari], John Masilu [Masibi], Mokgoetsi, Christian Lephoro, Makgetla Montsioa, Joshua Molema, Mere, Stephen Lefenya, C. Bethell [Bethel], C. Stuart Franklin, Alfred Mahon, E. Rowland, “Original Agreement Between Montsioa, Chief of the Barolongs and the Imperial Government Dated May 22nd, 1884 in Sechuana and English, detail” (Manuscript, Mafikeng, May 22, 1884), DO 141/2, National Archives (Great Britain), London, Public domain.

This treaty, a small segment of which is shown here, illustrates the complexities of working with colonial land treaties from nineteenth-century Africa. On one hand, the bilingual nature of the treaty suggests that British colonial officials shared its contents with the African signatories and creates the illusion that the document represents some degree of commitment from those signatories. On the other hand, at least some of the signatories, as above, signal their agreement by no more than an "X" on the page, a discursive representation that curtails any independent expression of “voice” that might otherwise be embedded in (and so recovered from) the document.

Moreover, the National Archives metadata omits the names of all but one of the African signatories and British witnesses listed above as creators of the document, thereby helping to erase their presence from history and precluding the potential for them to be found through digital searching. Even the name included in the metadata (Montsioa) is spelled incorrectly as “Montsiva.” (Note: Alternate versions of signatory and witness names in square brackets above derive from a copy of the English version (PDF) of the treaty held by the University of Witwatersrand. The inverted colors of this image help foreground the page's topographical features, thereby highlighting the material interactions of these signatories with the manuscript.)

Land treaties, as a European colonial technology, initiated the sundering of African sovereignty for the purposes of controlling natural resources and served as the basis for colonial influence and administration. This initiative (2022-24), funded by an ACLS Digital Justice Seed Grant ($25,000), seeks to explore the history of land treaties in Africa. The initiative will develop a prototype exhibition of digitized land treaty texts and objects plus critical materials, with results accessible to English-, Kiswahili-, and isiXhosa-speaking audiences.

In pursuing this objective, the ACLS-funded initiative will prototype workflows and collaborative partnerships that will re-orient academic practices largely based in, and arising from, the United States and Britain to co-create knowledge ethically with practitioners from the Global South. The initiative will speak to African land reform policies and provide important historical contexts for land reform stakeholders, while also challenging the monopoly of European languages and practices in the digital creation of knowledge concerning the African continent. It is also hoped that the initiative will lay the basis for a large-scale, multi-year, grant-funded project.

For its development, the initiative unites two conceptually-related digital humanities projects, One More Voice and The Ardhi Initiative (Ng’ang’a Wahu-Mũchiri, Director, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; 2019-present; also see Wahu-Mũchiri’s essay on the present site). The Ardhi Initiative focuses on investigating the 1850-1960 history of African land acquisitions with the goal of re-discovering home-grown solutions to continental challenges that cross multiple knowledge areas including human geography, agriculture, political economy, sociology, and anthropology.

The ACLS-funded initiative also centers on strengthening the collaboration between stakeholders in Kenya and the UK. Some of these are new to One More Voice (Chao Tayiana Maina, Director, African Digital Heritage Foundation; Co-founder, Museum of British Colonialism). Some have participated in previous initiatives (Jo Ichimura, Archivist, Special Collections, SOAS Library; Joanne Ruth Davis, Research Associate, SOAS, University of London and Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study). The inclusion of these stakeholders grows out of One More Voice’s emphasis on building global partnerships.

For examples of treaties that the initiative will examine, see those of 10 and 15 August 1904 and 4 and 13 April 1911, both of which involve agreements between the Maasai from Kenya and the British.

William Ivens Craft and the Victorian Atlantic World

Group of Workmen (Including William Ivens Craft) with Two Horse-Drawn Carts.

Anonymous, “Group of Workmen (Including William Ivens Craft) with Two Horse-Drawn Carts” (Photograph, [c.1910]), Personal image collection of Martin Copeland. Used by permission. This is the only known photograph of William Ivens Craft. He appears in the image leaning casually against the left-hand cart with one elbow resting upon the shaft. This photograph of William Ivens in an English coal yard among mostly-white fellow workers reflects the complex racial dynamics that the One More Voice digital exhibition will explore. Moreover, although the story of his parents – William and Ellen Craft – remains famous due to their sensational escape from slavery, William Ivens' own struggles and quest for belonging in the post-emancipation transatlantic world have received considerably less attention from historians, thereby making the recovery work of the planned exhibition all the more significant.

William Ivens Craft and the Victorian Atlantic World (2022, anticipated), a digital exhibition currently being developed by graduate student Hope McCaffrey (Northwestern University), will piece together the life of William Ivens Craft, whose personal history exemplifies the struggle and perseverance of individuals who lived a generation removed from American slavery, but who were still subject to the far-reaching transatlantic impacts of this racist institution.

The exhibition’s twelve digital rooms (i.e., separate but linked web pages) will engage with the themes of transatlantic anti-Blackness, what Saidiya Hartman calls “afterlife of slavery,” the tumultuous politics and rampant racism in the post-emancipation Atlantic world, and citizenship in the context of the emergence of the modern nation state. This exhibition will also bring together over twenty unpublished letters from the Bodleian Library, Oxford by William Ivens Craft and others in his world, including Ellen Craft, Elizabeth Pease Nichol, and Robert Nicholas Fowler.

Through this approach, the exhibition will explore William Ivens Craft’s experience in the Victorian Atlantic world and the ways in which his life intersected with the foregoing currents in order to illustrate the reach and enduring consequences of racial slavery and the journeys of those who fought against it and its remnants. The exhibition will also seek to cultivate a generative methodological and representational pedagogy that centers BIPOC (Black, Indigneous, and People of Color) voices and privileges polyvocal and non-academic epistemologies.

William Ivens Craft lived in the midst of an Atlantic world adjusting to abolition, drawing new lines around the rising nation-state, and grappling with the world-warping technological advances in transportation and industry. He was born and educated in England, spent the years of his adolescence in Georgia, then returned to England hoping to find better prospects than the American South – recently reclaimed by white supremacists and “home rule” – could offer. William Ivens carved out a living and sense of belonging in Victorian London despite facing a web of transatlantic anti-Blackness. For instance, he encountered paternalistic attitudes from former white abolitionists, struggled to find stable housing and clothing, and ultimately established roots in England, where his descendants still live.

Inheritors of the Craft family history, who span the Atlantic world, continue to recount the family’s remarkable escape from slavery and encourage the incorporation of the family’s legacy into the historical memory and built environment of England. The narrative of William Ivens’ life, as presented in the digital exhibition in conjunction with archival documents and critically-encoded editions of letters published by One More Voice, will offer an alternative understanding of post-emancipation history through the story of one individual whose life that history impacted considerably.

Unsung Voices of Color: An Undisciplined Anthology of Folklore and Supernatural Fiction, 1868-1930

Night scene of lake with two individuals on a canoe in silhouette (one standing, one sitting). Night scene of individuals in silhouette crossing bridge over river; most walking, one riding horse.

(Top)(Left) Shoda Koho, “Lake Biwa” (Woodcut, [Between 1900 and 1920]), FP 2 - JPD, no. 1571 (B size) [P&P], Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. No known restrictions on publication. For more information, see Fine Print Collection - Rights and Restrictions Information. The Library of Congress titles this woodcut as “Yoru No Shubi No Matsu [Shubi Pine].”
(Bottom)(Right) Hiroshima Koho, “Night View of Ohashi Bridge” (Woodcut, [c.1900-1915]), 1963.30.5317, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, San Francisco. Courtesy of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The Materials are made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws. Shoda Koho’s Lake Biwa and Hiroshima Koho’s Night View of Ohashi Bridge come from the publisher Hasegawa/Nishinomiya’s series of 21 prints known as the “Night Scene Series” (1910-1930). Japan is one of the countries featured in Unsung Voices of Color. This anthology, developed by students in a course at the University of Virginia under Indu Ohri’s guidance, brings together supernatural fiction and folklore from around the world between from 1868 to 1930. Students voted for Lake Biwa to be the anthology’s cover image because its spooky, unsettling atmosphere fits with the anthology’s theme.

Unsung Voices of Color: An Undisciplined Anthology of Folklore and Supernatural Fiction, 1868-1930 (2024, anticipated) grows out of an introductory literary seminar, “Uncovering 19th- and 20th-Century British Writers of Color” (spring 2021), that Indu Ohri taught at the University of Virginia in partnership with One More Voice. This class centered on expanding students’ and the public’s knowledge about, first, the folklore of colonized subjects and, second, supernatural fiction by writers of color under British rule or western imperial influence between 1868 and 1930. The students used One More Voice as a source for their course readings and for the focus of their final project, the anthology.

This anthology will contain student-produced annotated bibliographies, headnotes, and videos that critically frame excerpted texts from Japan, India, South Africa, and Jamaica. The excerpted fictional texts will include Rabindranath Tagore’s “The Hungry Stones” (1895), Onoto Watanna’s Tama (1910), H. G. de Lisser’s The White Witch of Rose Hall (1929), and Solomon Plaatje’s Mhudi (1930). The folklore selections will derive from Mary Frere and Anna Liberata de Souza’s Old Deccan Days (1868), George McCall Theal’s Kaffir Folk-lore (1882), Lafcadio Hearn and Setsuko Koizumi’s Kotto (1902), and Walter Jekyll’s Jamaican Song and Story (1907)

The anthology and video series are part of the planned development of a “Works of Folklore” section on One More Voice that will build on the current folklore subsection in the Bibliography and will be accessible to a general scholarly audience of educators, graduate students, and college students. During this period, colonial administrators collected and published folklore with the help of local coauthors (often uncredited), and such collections frequently had problems with translation, transcription, and accuracy. The anthology and video series will provide an alternative to such Eurocentric perspectives by foregrounding the voices of indigenous groups and people of color who shared their traditions with the British, coauthored folklore collections, and wrote their own supernatural fiction.

Corpus of Africa-Centered Literary Works, 1830-1930 (2021)

Voyant Frequency/Trends Chart with god*, christ*, and relig* visualized.

Caitlin Matheis, “Religion Frequency Chart 1” (Visualization [Voyant Screenshot], 2021). Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International. This visualization demonstrates some of the initial computational analysis Caitlin Matheis (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) carried out on the Corpus of Africa-Centered Literary Works that she developed. In this visualization Matheis explores the inclusion of religious elements in the corpus, whether as a justification for colonization or as part of discussions of local African cultural practices.

The project for Corpus of Africa-Centered Literary Works, 1830-1930 (2021), funded by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Emergency Research Gap Funding Program ($2000) and a Research Assistantship from the English Department, focused on the development of a corpus of Africa-centered works and supported preliminary computational text analysis of the corpus.

Over the spring and summer 2021 semesters, Caitlin Matheis, a graduate student at UNL, developed the corpus so that it brought together 62 plain text (TXT) files of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century literary works in English. The resulting corpus, now published in full by One More Voice, contains over 6.5 million words and balances both fiction and non-fiction works as well as African- and British-authored works (31 authors total are represented). To support further study of the corpus, Matheis also authored a critical essay (PDF) that outlines her initial work in using computational text analysis (especially Voyant Tools) to engage with the corpus and, separately, created a series of annotated screenshots that explore the corpus using a variety of visualization techniques.