I dislike the current URL (http://freewomenofcolor.tumblr.com). It’s posed in a language that would have been incomprehensible then and is heavy with meaning now. But something longer, something more like “Freedom, Race, Gender, Sex, and Bondage across the Atlantic African Diaspora” would have been impossible for visitors to understand and remember much less manage.
My problem isn’t a limit of code but of utility. URLs weren’t meant to be long and unwieldy. Visitors, friends, and followers need something short and pithy. We shrink URLs for a reason.
So I made the above part of the description. And Twitter’s 140-limit is good training. I will come across a title that can capture everything I need in one quick burst. Until then, like a “working title,” this is a working URL. Until then, I’ll work on time traveling backwards against language and memory to a time when the phrase “free woman of color” captured only the legalistic fantasies of colonial administrators because freedom wasn’t formed yet. And then I’ll travel back further, into the primordial linguistics of chattel bondage. I may lose an arm on the way back.
But this was important, something to think about when exploring the crossroads of black studies and digital production. It may be good practice to learn that some things aren’t translatable or shrinkable. And for the things that are, maybe we haven’t created the right language yet.
I’m also considering a Tumblr for these posts as a kind of project log. Until then, I’m placing notes and any other developments under the category, “The Codex.”
Image Credit: Free Women of Color, Saint Domingue (St. Domingue, Haiti), late 18th cent., Nicolas Ponce, Recueil des vues des lieux principaux de la colonie Francaise de Saint-Domingue (Paris, 1791), fig. 25; from a painting by Agostino Brunias. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University), as shown on www.slaveryimages.org, compiled by Jerome Handler and Michael Tuite, and sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library. (Click image for details)