Introduction

Beyond the Vale is a data visualization project dedicated to the study of slavery in antebellum North Carolina.  Focusing on Gooding’s Township, a rural farming community in the eastern county of Craven, it is designed to address basic questions about the experiences of the county’s antebellum enslaved population. These questions represent points of contention between local heritage narratives and the direct testimonies of former slaves.  Where former slaves describe a complex, yet undeniably exploitative system in which they had only minimal control over their own lives, county literature echoes larger themes in North Carolina state scholarship by either overlooking slavery, or portraying it as an unfortunate, yet largely benign institution. Beyond the Vale explores the use of historical population data in resolving this discrepancy.  Employing illustrative charts, webs and graphs, the project endeavors to show how such data can be extracted, compiled and reorganized in order to establish an interpretation of slavery that is both critical and inclusive.

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