Author Archives: george toussaint clarke

Digitizing Chicory

Digitizing Chicory displays digital reproductions of the 126 issues of Chicory, a Baltimore art and poetry magazine that ran from 1966 until 1983. Initially edited by poet Sam Cornish and inspired by the Black Arts Movement, Chicory published work by East Baltimore residents, providing a medium through which working-class and particularly Black Baltimoreans could convey experience in their own words. From Issue 19 (November 1969):

“[Chicory] will not publish just anything, but it is concerned with the music of words as well as with meaning…. Chicory publishes the written word in the manner submitted. Chicory will show how we feel…. It is writing about experience, about being poor, about being alive. It is a statement unguarded by the proper or necessary word.” 

This editorial approach of publishing submissions as-is—continually affirming Chicory’s  inseparability from moment and place—rendered a sense of political immediacy that is still tangible in the text and created an idiosyncratic documentation of Black life and modes of relation in Baltimore through the ‘70s.

The collection is presented in a way that lends itself to multiple forms of engagement from a wide audience—scholars, historians, and the general public would be able to navigate with little to no problem. Each issue of the magazine is displayed in ascending numerical order (there are additional sorting options as well). A search bar at the top allows users to search for words or phrases that may appear in the collection, and a similar feature within a given issue localizes the search to that issue. Metadata within each issue includes identifiers and keywords for both the object (issue) and item (page), as well as document dimensions and access rights. These features altogether lend themselves to both researcher and layperson, making for a user-friendly collection. Technologies used seem limited to the photoduplication process and—perhaps—a software that rendered the text of the issues searchable. 

The creation of Digitizing Chicory was the result of Mary Rizzo, of Rutgers University-Newark, coming across issues of Chicory at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library while researching for a book on Baltimore’s cultural history and racial politics. Rizzo then used grant funding to assemble an advisory group consisting of Baltimore community members invested in Chicory’s future. This advisory group included former editor Everett Adam Jackson as well as Brown. Along with Brown, Cornish is credited as Advisor on the About This Collection page. The recognition of the Baltimore community’s personal, historical, and political stakes in preserving Chicory—and the centering of their voices in the process—demonstrates an attention to ethical concerns around digitization and archival work that future projects would do well to emulate.