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Atlantic Ocean Map

GHS Student Projects

Butler University's Global and Historical Studies Program introduced a new core course, GHS 210 Freedom and Movement in the Transatlantic World, in fall 2017.  Developed with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, this course poses the enduring question, “What is freedom?”. While the word “freedom” is often conventionally associated with free market capitalism and the movement of people across national borders, this course challenges and complicates that assumption by asking students to consider the relationship between freedom and movement in and across Africa, the Americas, and Europe between the fourteenth century and the present.  

GHS 210 students discussed diverse artistic, historical, and philosophical works while concurrently developing digital humanities projects. Most students entered this second-year course without subject matter expertise but nevertheless created interesting, innovative, and ambitious projects. The students worked in small groups to explore various topics related to Freedom and Movement and to develop the technological skills necessary to present their topic in visually appealing and accessible ways. The gallery below highlights a few of these projects. You can find all of the projects on Digital Commons at Butler.

header image: 1814 Thomson Map of the Atlantic Ocean; Public Domain 

Slavery, Freedom, and Education

This student project attempts to deconstruct and reorient conventional conceptions of the relationship between slavery, education and freedom by analyzing historical documents, such as slave narratives and laws pertaining to the education of slaves, engaging with contemporary criticism, and positioning this topic within the conceptual framework of GHS 210-01: Freedom and Movement in the Transatlantic World —that is, considering the relationship between the education of enslaved individuals, freedom, and mobility in the antebellum United States. Although education is often viewed as a means of gaining increased freedom and mobility, this project argues that in the antebellum United States both the refusal to educate slaves and the selective education of slaves were used as additional apparatuses of oppression.

Mengele and the Holocaust

This student project explores “Dr. Josef Mengele and his role in the annihilation of freedom and movement during the Holocaust.”  The students noted that the Holocaust’s impact on freedom was “clearly negative and heartbreaking, so we wanted to delve deeper into a specific aspect of the ‘unfreedom’ that the prisoners in Auschwitz experienced.” This digital humanities project provides background on the Holocaust and Josef Mengele’s cruel experiments, but it focuses on the stories of the survivors.  The project contains biographical information and Story Maps for Isabella Leitner; Vera and Olga Kriegel; and Indiana’s own Eva Mozes Kor and her twin sister, Miriam.


This student project uses a dynamic map to show how ideas and actions travel across time, physical space, and social media. As the creators write, “By analyzing the origins of free speech and social medias as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, we hope to exemplify the power social media has on freedom and movement.” The project presents information on the First Amendment, the origins and definition of social media, and the Black Lives Matter hashtag and movement.

Freedom of Expression and the First Amendment

People across the globe use music, dance, visual arts, and digital technology to convey their political positions, share their creative muse, or to share information with fellow citizens.  For Americans, freedom of expression is one of the fiercely defended protections provided in the Bill of Rights. In the first year of the Trump presidency, many Americans have engaged in conversations surrounding the freedom of expression, particularly protecting a free press, net neutrality, and the future of American education.  GHS 210 students Brooke Kobren, Michaela Semenza, Audrey Lukacz, and Sarah Lewis chose to explore this freedom, its meaning to the American people, and how the freedom of expression is restricted.  

Evolution of Slavery

This student project, created by Gwen Spencer, Jade Jochem, Emma Schneir, and Peter Reilly for Dr. Garver's GHS 210 section, compares, in the words of these young scholars, "historic plantation slavery through the transatlantic slave trade and modern-day sex trafficking and human trafficking in order to identify how slavery has transformed over time."  Drawing upon demographic and historical data, first-hand accounts of enslaved people, and a rich body of academic and governmental resources, the creators of this project have created a visually appealing and interactive digital humanities project that seeks to reveal the emotional impacts and restrictions on individual liberty caused by both historic and contemporary forms of slavery.