The Early Caribbean Digital Archive (ECDA) is a free online literary history of the Caribbean created by Professor Nicole Aljoe and Professor Elizabeth Maddock Dillon at Northeastern University. The site provides centralized access to primary sources that are located in archives around the Atlantic. ECDA also decolonizes the archive of Caribbean history, foregrounding the “centrality and creativity of enslaved and free African, Afro-creole, and Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean.”
The project is made up of three main sections: Archive, Classroom, and Exhibits. The archive features mostly textual sources, including novels, travel narratives, natural histories, colonial documents, and Obeah and slave narratives. Thirty of these texts are accompanied by a scholarly introduction that explains the significance of the text and situates it in historical context. The Exhibits section has four exhibits on Caribbean history that connect images and texts from the archive. The exhibits explore early Caribbean slave narratives, natural history, Obeah, and Afro-Jamaican music.
The Classroom section has many materials that are useful for both educators and students, helping to integrate ECDA into high school and college classrooms. The Resources for Teachers section includes sample syllabi for Early African American Literature, Feminist Literature and Colonial Society, Pirates, Slaves, and Witches: Reading the Eighteenth-Century British Caribbean, and an Introduction to Caribbean Culture and Literature unit plan.
The site also features several assignments that can be used in high school and college classes in history, English, public history, and digital humanities. For example, one assignment prompts students to design an exhibit on a particular theme of Caribbean history using sources from the online archive. Students write arguments based on their curated sources and complete a reflective essay on the process. Students and educators can then partner with the ECDA to include those exhibits on the website itself. Other assignments include writing a scholarly introduction for an item in the archive, learning TEI and XML to markup a Caribbean text, writing a rhetorical analysis of a pirate from historical texts, and putting together a material history of an archival item related to slavery.
The Early Caribbean Digital Archive is an essential educational resource for studying the history of enslaved and free African, Afro-creole, and Indigenous peoples of the Caribbean, European imperialism and colonialism, and the history of the Caribbean within the wider Atlantic World.