Stack of newspapers

Cunningham and Ward share Mellon Foundation grant for project on the virality of racial terror

David Cunningham

David Cunningham, chair and professor of sociology, and Geoff K. Ward, professor of African and African American studies, received a $500,000, three-year grant from the Mellon Foundation, along with collaborators from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Northeastern University.

Geoff K. Ward

Their project, “The Virality of Racial Terror in US Newspapers, 1863-1921,” will use digital humanities text-mining methods to trace the circulation of reports about anti-Black violence in United States newspapers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

While the project’s primary focus is historical, it also will offer context on the spread of white supremacist ideologies in contemporary viral media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Reddit, and insights into how it can be contested. Combining innovative research with pedagogical and public engagement initiatives, the project will develop research articles, public writing and exhibitions about the role of newspapers in the history and legacy of racial violence; accessible datasets and methodological toolkits for further analysis of reporting networks; and information and other resources to support communities reckoning with these legacies today.