Course Reflection

From the beginning this course wasn’t exactly what I had been expecting, but the ways in which it was not have been ways that I feel have allowed for my own growth as a student. I came in thinking the bulk of my work over the course of the semester would be my research, but ultimately the research was only one component of a much larger project. Even with the research I set out to do, I ran into multiple difficulties that I was forced to deal with. Doing so has allowed me to learn both new skills and perfect some of those I already had.

When this semester began, I was looking forward to getting to do some kind of original research. Whether in physical archives with manuscripts or via the Internet, I was excited to zero in on something that hadn’t received much attention in the past. Kayla and I did find a subject that I think has been largely neglected, that of the Eastern Band Cherokee and voting rights. The larger story of Native American citizenship and voting rights is more widely known and studied, but from the standpoint of a “public facing” project also felt like it could use some attention. I feel proud of the work Kayla and I were able to do in making a website to highlight these subjects. I don’t know if anybody will ever read them, but at least we put something together that I feel provides some positive value.

In terms of original research, I ended up doing less than I had originally hoped. If minutes from American Legion meetings or the meetings of local election officials in Jackson and Swain Counties exist, I wasn’t able to find them. We were warned away from conducting interviews pretty early on because of the sensitive nature of conducting interviews with EBCI, so that was ruled out.

I did locate what are probably records of the FBI investigation into the American Legion franchise committee’s complaints in 1946, but the requirement to fill out a FOIA request and the time constraints of the course ruled out any further progress in that area. Given the uncertain nature of that investigation’s influence on subsequent events, that might not have been a huge loss. Still, part of me is always going to wonder what information is sitting up there in the National Archives.

If pressure was applied from state legislators on the county election officials, I assume it was “back channel,” and no real records exist. There are signs of what may have happened here, but hard evidence and specific documents were lacking. Thankfully, John Finger’s book on the EBCI contained first hand accounts obtained from interviews by Finger himself of these events. That was as close as we were going to get.

Ultimately, the limited nature of resources for the 1946 resolution of the conflict forced us to broaden the project to cover a more general conflict to provide context, that of Native American citizenship. The research required for this forced me to consider how my specific, local topic fit into a broader conflict. One of my weaknesses as a student in the past, I think, has been when trying to position research I’ve done as part of a larger question. I was forced to exercise that particular muscle for our project, which I feel has been incredibly beneficial.

More generally, the focus of the course on conflict resolution did feel novel and interesting. As a history major I spend a lot of time looking into conflict. A whole lot of time. Trying to focus in on a conflict that was successfully resolved, and trying to think about why it had been resolved, was both interesting and rewarding.

A more mundane skill I worked on for this course was that of planning and executing a long-term project. I had some trouble with Milestone 2, which I won’t make any excuses for, but at least that helped drive home how important it is to make sure nothing is disregarded over the course of a project. I wound up getting sucked into the research so much that I at first neglected the other aspects of the project. If I could do the whole thing over, I would try to wrap up the research much sooner.

This project also forced me to consider my audience more than I ever have before. Especially once work on the website began, it became necessary to constantly take into account the fact that this project is meant for a general audience. Especially since I hope to try my hand at grad school for history, the ability to effectively communicate the facts and findings of a project is critical. I am very glad I got this experience at it.

This is also the first time I worked on a large project in coordination with another student. Thankfully Kayla was a breeze to work with, and we were able to break down our respective areas of the project without any trouble. We both work and go to school full time, so coordinating our schedules did become difficult once or twice, but I don’t think it negatively impacted our final product.

Finally, this is the most work I’ve ever done to create an online version of a research project specifically designed for the public. I feel like I have a decent grasp on WordPress, and am interested in making use of it in the future. I wish I had taken care of research sooner and could have played around with the website a little more, but maybe I’ll go back and put in a few improvements here and there. I am very glad I took a course that forced me to shape a research project for something like a website. I hope it isn’t the last time I get the opportunity.

All in all, this has been a fascinating course. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to take part, and very disappointed at the thought that this may be the final COPLAC digital course ever. I hope it isn’t. This course felt fresher and less rote than a lot of other courses might have. Sorry if I rambled a bit in the middle here, this reflection has been useful on its own as a way to kind of unpack the last few months.

3/24 – 4/4

There are two weeks remaining before a draft of the website is due. The following are my remaining tasks:

  1. The “main narrative” of the EBCI struggle with citizenship and disenfranchisement, running from the 1890s through to at least 1946.
  2. The story of Native American citizenship in the United States more generally, for the supplemental webpage on this subject.
  3. A supplementary map.
  4. Sprucing up the timeline with pictures/some manner of color theme.
  5. Refining the theme for the website, implementation of plugins.

By this Thursday, “Milestone 2.5” I intend to have drafts of the 20th century portion of the “main narrative” and the Native American citizenship supplementary page. By Sunday night I would like to complete the main narrative and produce a draft map. Between Sunday night and April 4th, any remaining tasks will need to be completed. I hope to fiddle around with the website as each of the preceding tasks are completed.

Milestone 2

By Milestone 2, as originally planned, I was supposed to have completed writing all the supplementary pages for the website along with ALL the research for the project. As it became clear that the information available on the Cherokee American Legion story was somewhat limited, that part of the “main narrative” receded in importance in my head, and the project seemed to be more about the story of EBCI struggles in the context of the longer history of Native American citizenship as well as in the context of the wider story of Native American disenfranchisement. As a result, I wanted to put more effort into the supplementary page on Native American citizenship.

So, my couple weeks before Milestone 2 were mostly taken up with either searching for information related to that subject, or reading the material I had found on that subject. I feel like I have an okay grasp on the wider history of Native American citizenship now, though the “story” of that citizenship struggle and the role played by the EBCI still needs to be written.

There are two main parts of the research that are still outstanding. One and a half, really. The specific EBCI history needs to be fleshed out somewhat, I think, which is the half. The other part is the history of North Carolina’s legislative efforts to disenfranchise minority voters. Poll taxes, literacy tests, etc. The Jim Crow apparatus that was used to restrict ballot access for EBCI voters after clear citizenship was finally clarified in the 1920s.

A followup post will outline how I see the next two weeks going, before the April 4th deadline.

Research Contract

Kayla Taylor and Ben Allen

Conflict in America Contract

February 21st, 2019

Project Site: http://conflict.coplacdigital.org/unca/

Mission Statement

Goal of Project

This project will explore the battle in gaining citizenship and full suffrage for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians from the late nineteenth through early to mid twentieth century. Research will focus primarily on the Eastern Band of Western North Carolina in Jackson and Swain counties, specifically the Qualla Boundary (also known as the Cherokee reservation) as well as surrounding areas. Key political figures of the fight for and against suffrage will be studied. The formally recognized Cherokee government and its actors will be at the fore of our study. Opposed to their efforts to gain citizenship and voting rights were often county elections officials, especially those in Jackson and Swain counties in North Carolina. The state government initially sought to protect its own rights as the sovereign authority over the EBCI by arguing in favor of their citizenship, but eventually took a hands off approach and did not intervene in county-based disenfranchisement efforts. It appears statewide recognition of the EBCI as equal electoral participants was never codified, their status remaining ambiguous until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The role of common people also played a particularly valuable role in the fight for and against Cherokee suffrage and citizenship, through popular, and possibly spontaneous, protests against discriminatory election laws in Sylva in 1920 and complaints and negotiations carried out by Cherokee veterans in 1946.

Electoral participation is central to the responsiveness of democratic governments to the needs of its citizens. In the years following the deadly removal of Cherokee and other Native Americans from the Southeast against their will, the surviving Cherokee in the mountains of Western North Carolina lived in a legal gray area, their citizenship status undefined. Their efforts to achieve equal participation in North Carolina society at the end of the 19th century very quickly ran afoul of local electoral authorities who feared their ability to swing elections in counties with regularly thin vote margins. The struggle of the Eastern Band Cherokee to achieve equal voting rights in the face of efforts to reject their citizenship and, afterwards, the same Jim Crow era laws used to disenfranchise other North Carolina minority voters is of particular importance in an era of new laws designed to effectively disenfranchise large numbers of minority voters in North Carolina and many other states.

The arbitrary nature of citizenship status impedes upon people’s liberties, preventing many from attaining firm recognition as equal members of the “political fabric.” This fuels conflict, not only between individuals, but between individuals and institutions. This project attempts to comprehend how mass drives of cooperation and concession enfranchised the Cherokee.

Primary documents such as the 1897 ruling stripping the EBCI of North Carolina citizenship and state legislation restricting access to electoral participation to minorities will be used. National laws including the 1924 Citizenship Act and the Dawes Act which impacted Native American citizenship will be examined, as well as civil rights legislation of the 1960s that ultimately provided the Federal Government with effective enforcement mechanisms to combat local disenfranchisement efforts. Several academic secondary sources will be utilized, especially concerning the subject of nationwide Native American voting rights. Additionally, contemporary newspapers will be relied on for many of the specific events involving the EBC, such as the 1920 Sylva protests.

The intended audience is local residents of North Carolina who may be unaware of the history of disenfranchisement and political oppression of the Eastern Band Cherokee. This is a relatively lightly explored topic, and one which deserves an updated and more comprehensive investigation. What is heavily explored is, disenfranchisement through gerrymandering and voter I.D laws, in which historical connections can be made to understand our current political system.

Structure of Site and Intended Features

The structure of the site will center around a chronological account of the events related to Cherokee suffrage and citizenship in North Carolina, beginning at least as early as the late 19th century and extending to at least the specific efforts of conflict resolution to attain suffrage shortly before the 1946 elections. The primary home page should feature an appropriate and relevant image or example of relevant art, a short summary of our issue, and links to the primary chronological account and particular subtopics that may deserve their own pages.

The website will include a page related to the national issue of Native American

Citizenship and Suffrage at the turn of the last century, a page for the legal framework underlying North Carolina’s disenfranchisement of racial minorities subsequent to Reconstruction, a page with a collection of brief profiles of figures central to the chronological account, a page with EBCI artwork and music, a timeline page, and bibliographic page.

Each page on the website will incorporate appropriate photographs or artwork to complement the narratives we present, including present day photographs of important locations related to the  project, contemporary photographs when possible of the same locations, and EBCI artwork. Although the subject matter is very text based, we want to incorporate pictures from the time, as well as audio of possible interviews, music, and art we come across to contextualize the space and place of Eastern Band Cherokee disenfranchisement and their struggle for suffrage.


Tools

Apart from constructing most of the site on WordPress, the timeline will likely be created with TimelineJS, however the plugins “Timelines and History Slider” and “Timeline History” will both be looked into as both seem to be lighter on resources than TimelineJS. As most information will be communicated through the chronological account/supplementary pages, a lightweight, faster timeline tool may be appropriate.

A map will be assembled through “WP Google Maps,” which looks like a visually appealing and relatively simple plugin to use.

The plugin “Photo Gallery” will be used to organize and display images, and Paint will be used to crop images as needed. If audio files are utilized, “Compact WP Audio Player” is the plugin that will be used to add them to the website. Footnotes and bibliography will be added through the plugin “Academic Blogger’s Kit,” which may have a steeper learning curve than other footnote plugins, but appears to create a very professional final product.


Schedule of Milestones

March 5: Finish draft of primary timeline.

March 7: Complete draft for “Profiles” page. Complete draft of map.

March 12: Finalize sources to be used. Drafts of all supplementary pages for the website.

March 14: Digitize any photographs and artwork collected. Complete archive of media for website.

March 19: Finalize media to be used on website from archive.

March 21: Research completed.

March 26: Draft of chronological account.

April 2: Finish selection of contemporary media to be used on website.

April 4: Draft of final website.

Distribution of Labor

Ben and Kayla will both work to collect art, music, and photography to enhance the website. The chronological account will be a collaborative effort, as well. The website will be collaborative, though Ben will be in charge of utilizing plugins.

Kayla will be responsible for the supplementary pages for “Profiles,” North Carolina election law, and present day media. She will also be the person primarily responsible for any oral interviews, should they be conducted.

Ben will be responsible for the timelines, the map, and the supplementary page for nationwide Native American voting rights.

Research Contract

Kayla Taylor and Ben Allen
Conflict in America Contract
February 21st, 2019
Project Site: http://conflict.coplacdigital.org/unca/

Mission Statement

Goal of Project

The goal of the project is to ponder, investigate, and contextualize Eastern Band Cherokee suffrage and citizenship of the early to mid-twentieth century in North Carolina. The primary area of focus will be an investigation of the core issues that fomented the political conflict of stripping the Eastern Band’s right to vote and citizenship status. We will also explore the conciliatory processes of the Cherokee with the NC and US governments, and the efforts that led to their regaining the right to vote and U.S citizenship. This project attempts to elucidate larger issues of racism in tandem with disenfranchisement, the two-party electoral system and its nature to ostracize rather than incorporate political voices outside of the status quo, and the illusory nature of citizenship status and citizens’ rights to vote.

The intended audience is local residents of North Carolina who may be unaware of the history of disenfranchisement and political oppression of the Eastern Band Cherokee. This is a relatively lightly explored topic, and one which deserves an updated and more comprehensive investigation.

Structure of Site and Intended Features

The structure of the site will center around a chronological account of the events related to Cherokee suffrage and citizenship in North Carolina, beginning at least as early as the late 19th century and extending to at least the specific efforts of conflict resolution to attain suffrage shortly before the 1946 elections. The primary home page should feature an appropriate and relevant image or example of relevant art, a short summary of our issue, and links to the primary chronological account and particular subtopics that may deserve their own pages.

The website could include a page related to the general issue of Native American Citizenship and Suffrage at the turn of the last century, a page for the legal framework underlying North Carolina’s disenfranchisement of racial minorities subsequent to Reconstruction, a page for the issue of mixed race Eastern Band Cherokee and their role as intermediaries with state and federal authorities, a timeline page, and bibliographic page. Each page will incorporate appropriate photographs or art.

Tools

Apart from constructing most of the site on WordPress, the timeline will likely be created with TimelineJS, however the plugins “Timelines and History Slider” and “Timeline History” will both be looked into as both seem to be lighter on resources than TimelineJS. As most information will be communicated through the chronological account/supplementary pages, a lightweight, faster timeline tool may be appropriate.

A map will be assembled through “WP Google Maps,” which looks like a visually appealing and relatively simple plugin to use.

The plugin “Photo Gallery” will be used to organize and display images, and Paint will be used to crop images as needed. If audio files are utilized, “Compact WP Audio Player” is the plugin that will be used to add them to the website. Footnotes and bibliography will be added through the plugin “Academic Blogger’s Kit,” which may have a steeper learning curve than other footnote plugins, but appears to create a very professional final product.

Schedule of Milestones

March 7: Complete any oral interviews. Finalize specific structure of narrative/subjects. Drafts of timeline and map. Drafts of supplementary page info.

March 21: Primary research completed. Finalize selection of photographs, art, and music. First draft of chronological account.

April 4: Draft of final website.

Thoughts on progress.

First off, it looks like my institution doesn’t give me access to Google My Maps. “We are sorry, but you do not have access to this service. Please contact your Organization Administrator for access. ” is the exact quote I get when I attempt to use the link from our course website. I might make a Google account specifically to try it out.

Storymap wasn’t a terrible fit for the loose narrative I jammed into it regarding our subject, but I’m not sure it’s ideal for whatever our final product is going to be. It seems pretty easy to use, however.

There are a couple of journal articles and a book, that UNCA thankfully holds in the library, that we need to look over. None are specifically about the Eastern Band Cherokee and voting, but all are related to the Eastern Band Cherokee and, in part, their political situation/history. I want to start looking for info related to other Native American groups in the early 20th century and their experience with voting and/or disenfranchisement.

1/21/19: First Post

My partner, Kayla, first had the idea of looking into conflicts related to Native Americans in NC, and I think it seems like a very good one. I am very interested in choosing a topic related to the Eastern Band Cherokee, though at the moment I am not very familiar with specific conflicts we could look into. I do know the construction of the casino in Cherokee, NC was at least the subject of extensive debate within the Cherokee community. Apart from that a lot work is left to be done to narrow this down.

Last week I spent some time looking into the city of Asheville directly. There was a great deal of controversy from the late 60s through the late 70s when it was decided Beaucatcher Mountain, right in the middle of town, would be sliced clean through the create the giant cut for an interstate (Currently I-240). The conflict was “resolved” when the courts refused to hear the challenge presented my local activists, so I am not sure this is a particularly good example of conflict resolution. The only attempted resolution was via legal action, and the challenge was never even hashed out.

I also tried to look into the construction of the Tennessee Valley Authority dams across the region, to see if there were any notable challenges. That lead to a dead end, though I have heard UNCA’s Special Collections has some documents related to the TVA.

Finally, I looked into the Lumbee Tribe further east in North Carolina. They apparently have spent a great deal of time trying to gain federal recognition, so far unsuccessfully. This seems interesting and I wonder if it might be a possible choice.