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Editors’ Choice: Data Mapping Leads to New Visions of Reconstruction

In the Reconstruction South, it was frequently the army that upheld newly freed people’s rights. But where was the army, how much of the South could it access, and did it have the power to uphold emancipation in more remote areas? With their recently published digital project, Mapping Occupation, Gregory P. Downs (UC Davis) and Scott Nesbit (Univ. of Georgia) seek to answer these questions. The project, accessible at, offers a new way to view and teach Reconstruction.
Built in mapping platform ArcGIS, the project analyzes data from thousands of military records documenting the locations of army posts in former Confederate states between May 1865 and December 1880. But how does the scholar go about shaping an effective digital mapping project? In an interview, Downs and Nesbit shared details of their experience building Mapping Occupation.

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This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief Amanda Regan based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: Antonio Jimenez-Munoz, Jan Lampaert, María Cumplido, Rebecca Napolitano, Danae Tapia, Leigh Bonds, and Covadonga Lamar