About Advocate Recovered

Advocate Recovered is a critical making project conceived by Dr. Julian C. Chambliss from the Department of History at Rollins College. The goal of this project is to recover the contents of The Winter Park Advocate, an African-American newspaper published in Winter Park, Florida. For decades the history of the African-American experience after the Civil War in the United States has been an important focal point for historians. In 1951 C. Vann Woodward’s Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 forced historians to rethink traditional periodization about race and social relations in the South. Expanding on this ideological point in the 1990s, Edward L. Ayers’s The Promise of the New South: Life After Reconstruction suggested the mobility created by New South “modernization” triggered violent confrontations, fractured politics, and social upheaval. In recent year, scholars have increasingly called attention to the need to capture black voices and perspectives about this period as work left undone.

This project enhances our understanding of this crucial period by offering a window on the African-American experience in Florida from the perspective of African Americans.  At the same time, as a digital history project that requires undergraduate students to engage with primary sources, it offers the opportunity for experiential learning through archival research and transcription.  As a digital history project linked to an underrepresented minority, this project engages in the postcolonial digital humanities approach articulated by scholars such as Adeline Koh who urge scholars to disrupt patterns of privilege replicated in digital humanities by incorporating minority voices. By working to highlight the African-American experience this project creates an open electronic resource (OER) useful for a variety of teaching and learning goals.

Owned and operated by African Americans residing in Hannibal Square, the African-American district in Winter Park, The Advocate was a weekly that began publication in May 1889. The Advocate provided a forum for community news that included social, political and economic concerns. Heavily reflecting the political landscape of the time, the paper was a strong voice for the Republican Party in a time of resurgent white rule driven by southern Democrats. As such, the stories and opinions in the pages of  The Advocate represent a critical primary source documenting the transformation of Florida in the 1890s. Although most of The Advocate was thought to be lost, significant fragments of the paper can be found in the Winter Park Public Library and in the Winter Park Scrapbook (WPS) located in the Olin Library Archive and Special Collection at Rollins College.  

By transcribing these fragment, this project offers unique insights into the evolution of southern society after Reconstruction. Whether the rise of  Jim Crow segregation or black economic and social aspiration, the Advocate gives us a glimpse of African-American thought and action. As a generative scholarship project, this site allows students to engage with the past in a unique manner while creating the opportunity to create new scholarship on the black experience.  Beyond transcription, undergraduate researchers create categories and tags reflecting historically relevant topics. Taken together, the project provides a resource for the public and a unique learning experience for students.


Advocate Recovered in the News

Rebecca Onion, “Roller Skating Socials and a Black Rosie the Riveter,” Slate, March 8, 2016.

Rob Humphreys, “Recovering a Hidden History,” May 11, 2017.

Laurie N. Taylor, “We Are Called to Labor Activism in the Digital Age for the Work of Remembering,” Media Commons, November 21, 2017.

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