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Professor contributes to Web site project

August 20, 2008

For a mind-boggling experience, go to There, with just a click of the mouse, you will find dozens of Web sites covering art and culture, literature and language arts, foreign languages and history and social studies.

You can learn about U.S. naval history and take a virtual tour of the U.S.S. Constitution; see a virtual model of the Roman Forum as it would have appeared in 400 A.D.; learn about family life in Illinois from 1700 to the present; read the diary of Martha Ballard, an 18th century midwife; learn about the musical traditions of the Mississippi River; hear recordings made between 1940 and 1973 by six American presidents; and much more.

And now, thanks to the work of Joe Lockard, an associate professor of English at ASU, visitors to the EDSITEment Web site can learn a great deal about antislavery literature.

The Antislavery Literature Project’s site at, which is a collaboration between Lockard and scholars at Iowa State University and Harvard University, as well as affiliates and advisers at 15 universities, has been selected in a national contest as “one of the best online resources for education in the humanities.” The project is included on the EDSITEment Web site, which is maintained by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Lockard says he doesn’t know who nominated the Antislavery Literature Project site.

“Notification from the NEH came out of the blue, a complete surprise,” he says. “I presume one of the project’s friends thought this was a good idea.”

To be included in EDSITEment, Web sites must meet a long list of criteria.

“EDSITEment, with NEH and the Verizon Foundation’s Thinkfinity as its partners, serves as a gateway to the highest-quality humanities-related educational content on the Internet,” says Michael Hall of EDSITEment’s peer review panel. “It provides a central resource bank for teachers, parents and students across the country seeking excellent humanities sites from among the thousands of educational sites now available on the Internet. EDSITEment provides lesson plans, a special section for educators, a monthly calendar, ‘This Month’s Feature,’ the ‘NEH Spotlight’ and a search engine. EDSITEment typically gets more than 400,000 visitors per month.”

The Antislavery Literature Project site “met the EDSITEment criteria for intellectual quality, content, design, and most importantly, classroom impact,” Hall says.

The project’s Web site is almost as diverse as EDSITEment itself. There are sections for children’s literature, poetry, prose, travel accounts, tracts, essays, speeches and contemporary slave narratives, and visitors can view videos or listen to podcasts.

There is even a little music. The Antislavery Ensemble, an ad-hoc choir of ASU faculty and graduate students directed by ASU music professor Kay Norton, recorded a variety of abolitionist choral music.

How did all of this come about?

Lockard became interested in the field of antislavery literature when he was a graduate student in the early 1990s.

“I researched and eventually published an historicized re-edition of Mattie Griffith’s 1856 novel, a pseudo-slave narrative titled ‘Autobiography of a Female Slave,’ ” he says. “I wanted to understand why a white Kentucky woman – who turned out to be a slave owner – would write an antislavery novel in the voice of an enslaved black woman.

“The author’s biography turned out to be fascinating, particularly because she became a respected abolitionist. So I realized there was an enormous amount of similar literary research that needed work, and I began working in the field.

“Most often, the only piece of antislavery literature students or teachers have encountered is Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’ Yet there is a huge body of antislavery literature that had massive distribution.”

The Antislavery project’s Web site already is busy, with about 65,000 unique visits per month from more than 100 countries, including France, the United Kingdom and China.

Now that it’s listed on EDSITEment, the tally is certain to rise.