N Stands for Negro. To Be All He Can, Without Doing Wrong, Is the Birthright of Man.
August 30, 2005 9:49 PM   Subscribe

The Gospel of Slavery: A Primer of Freedom. An 1864 antislavery treatise, uploaded to flickr.com. (Cory Doctorow at Boingboing says, "When I see stuff like this, I sometimes get a thrill to my toes as I realize that practically every document of this vintage will soon be on the web and only a quick search away.")
posted by Guy Smiley (16 comments total)
Cory Doctorow at Boingboing says, "When I see stuff like this, I sometimes get a thrill to my toes as I realize that practically every document of this vintage will soon be on the web and only a quick search away."

Great link, but Cory is an established dimwit, despite his undeserved good name in the hipster tech community. This material hardly meets any accepted accessibility guidelines — so much for the blind! — let alone its absence from any web search results, since no common search engine uses OCR as a matter of course. Flickr/Yahoo is hardly a substitute for the archival work being done by professional librarians.
posted by Rothko at 9:58 PM on August 30, 2005

This is a great link!

But, like usual, Cory Doctorow doesn't have any idea what he's blabbering about, since it doesn't involve Disneyland or really awful science fiction books. He must be unaware that there are millions of newspapers that were published between 1850 and 1985 that most likely will not be digitized in a searchable form any time in the next century, if ever.
posted by cmonkey at 10:06 PM on August 30, 2005

This "Cory Doctorow", it vibrates?

Anyway. Dragging him/her/it into a thread like this is a red herring. RTFA, d00ds.
posted by davy at 10:44 PM on August 30, 2005

Fine. As far as I'm concerned, Cory Doctorow, Shmory Shmoctorow. All's I care about is, a) Hey - interesting and well-written old-timey antislavery document that I otherwise wouldn't ever have seen, and b) Hey - yet another free (dollarwise) method of ordinary folks uploading public domain info to the web, for Us, The Teeming Masses.
posted by Guy Smiley at 11:42 PM on August 30, 2005

I thought Flickr was for photos you take yourself?
posted by BoringPostcards at 12:30 AM on August 31, 2005

As the tags on those flickr pages kind of indicate, these images are from the New York Public Library's Digital Gallery (of related interest - Digital Schomburg). There is no cost involved in viewing the results of searches for terms like "antislavery" or "gospel of slavery." The latter title brings up pages from the flickr set linked. I think the teeming masses who want to see stuff like this might be more likely to go to a library web site than a personal flickr page. Though maybe the flickr page is more likely to be seen by teeming masses who aren't specifically interested in this but would be intrigued by it anyway, especially now that it has been linked here and elsewhere.
posted by PY at 12:39 AM on August 31, 2005

The latter title brings up pages from the flickr set linked. I just meant that a search for that title gets you the digital images that were the source for that flickr set.
posted by PY at 12:47 AM on August 31, 2005

BoringPostcards, aye they say it is but I can't say I see many people use it that way.
posted by dabitch at 1:09 AM on August 31, 2005

The Primer of Freedom is cool. I like it, although I'm not sure why it's on Flickr. The link debunking Doctorow is awesome.
posted by OmieWise at 5:30 AM on August 31, 2005

I imagine someone could find writings that each of us has made, at one point or another, and rip it to shreds and label us a dimwit, too. To entirely discount a guy based on two or three paragraphs is just wrong.

Cory may be a lot of things, but he's not a dimwit. Zealot, yes. Grand-stander, yes. Self-promoter, yes. One of the minds behind the most popular blogs on the internet today, yes.
posted by crunchland at 6:29 AM on August 31, 2005

It is a great post and an interesting site--but Rothko is right too, this is not the best way to put primary documents on the web. The Library of Congress, among others, does it much better.
posted by LarryC at 6:49 AM on August 31, 2005

cmonkey: this is off-topic, though related to what you said, but the Philadelphia Inquirer recently put every issue printed between 1860 and 1865 online. This would warrant a front page post if they didn't charge for it. As it is, it might be interesting for people whose interest is piqued by this post and who are looking for more historical primary sources.
posted by deafmute at 8:08 AM on August 31, 2005

Wow, it's like taking a time maching back to the slavery days.
Check out "N is for Negro."
First thing I notice is that the language is all backwards-like, reminiscent of how Yoda talks.
So much so, that I don't even know what they're trying to convey: is it saying you'll get punished for teaching the slaves to read?
Or is it saying God doesn't want you to teach them to read?
Or is it saying they should teach them to read?
posted by HiveMind at 9:55 AM on August 31, 2005

posted by HiveMind at 9:55 AM on August 31, 2005

Why Cory Matters In This Thread:

The FPP was created in a spirit of techno-optimism -- "golly, tech sure will do wonderful things, like let us search the combined wisdom of mankind from our neurally embedded PDAs..." -- and Cory got dragged into it for atmosphere. Hence, he matters.

But not much. What really matters is whether this particular doc has anything to do with any real techno-bennies we're going to get any time soon. (Or Evar, f.t.m.)

As others have pointed out, teh backlog of stuff to be digitized is mind-boggling, and the problem of how to "access" it isn't likely to be reduced to "a few clicks" any time in the next hundred years. This is raw image data, folks -- where it's been filmed, at all, and where it hasn't, the documents are often fragile and stained and difficult to scan. And when we do scan them, we lose information about them -- like smell, texture, chemical makeup, etc.

(On smell: I recently read an account by someone doing research in a town archive. He encountered a medical historian, working in the same archive. The medical historian was going through boxes of some kind of document that would be passed back and forth between towns, and sniffing them. He was looking for a whiff of vinegar; it seems that when there was an outbreak of typhus people would [try to] disinfect their documents with vinegar before sending them out of town...)

I don't have a personal opinion on Cory, really, except in my capacity as a confirmed techno-cynic. And in that capacity I have this to say about him and his ilk and their general outlook: [face-palm /]. ... otoh, they do give me something to be cynical about.
posted by lodurr at 10:59 AM on August 31, 2005

... btw, Rothko's "established dimwit" link up-top establishes nothign of the sort. I would say, rather, that it establishes a certain lack of imagination on John Gruber's part. But that's anotehr story for another time....
posted by lodurr at 11:06 AM on August 31, 2005

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