The Lilly Library at Indiana University has launched a new digital collection titled Land, Wealth, Liberation: The Making & Unmaking of Black Wealth in the United States.
According to the press release, the collection features, “an interactive timeline with photos, videos, historical information, and resources for educators covering 1820 to 2020.” The project examines how African Americans produced wealth and maintained access to economic opportunities.
Willa Tavernier, IU Libraries' research impact and open scholarship librarian, said the national dialogue in 2020 around racial justice that sparked protests across the country was the genesis of the project. She along with other IU librarians have been at work on the collection for over a year.
"A lot of people didn't understand the origin of the wealth gap," she said. "I would say even at the beginning of the project, even my understanding of it did not stack up to what I found. Historically, there has been so much destruction and targeting of Black communities and wealth that's more widespread than I realized."
Savannah Price, a history and gender studies major from Kentucky worked on the technology platform's accessibility and did extensive research on how land was taken away from African Americans.
"One part of it that really stood out to me was seeing names of towns that my friends are from, where Black people were systematically run out of those towns in Kentucky," Price said. "There was one town that was flooded to form Kentucky Lake, so the town's entire history is underwater. I didn't know there were white people in that town who made sure there were no Black people in the whole county. They would give them a warning to leave and then burn down their houses if they didn't."
The 200-year timeline is broken into five time periods including the pre-Civil War era, the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma, and how public policies prohibited Black Americans' ability to own land or homes.