Researching Racial Injustice

Researching Racial Injustice

The Alachua County Community Remembrance project has organized the Racial Justice Essay Contest through the Equal Justice Initiative. At this time, the contest is open to all 9th - 12th grade students attending the following high schools in Gainesville, Florida: Gainesville High School, Buchholz High School, Eastside High School, Loften High School, P.K. Yonge Lab School, North Central Florida Public Charter School, SIATech High School, and A. Quinn Jones Center. It is also open to homeschool students zoned for any of these schools. The contest ends on Thursday, April 15, 2021 at 11:59 PM EST. This page provides resources and lists events to help students with their submission.

How To Do Research

1. Determine what your question is. For this essay contest, we recommend starting with the themes, topics, and historical events suggested by the Equal Justice Initiative. Grab a piece of paper and start writing down key words or ideas that come to your mind on each topic. Consider your personal experiences with or knowledge of the subject. In this phase, ideas are not good or bad, instead, they are tools to help you get to the question you want to answer. You'll review them once you're done, then select one to begin researching. 

2. Identify sources that you can use. Once you've selected your topic or topics, think of where you could find information related to that topic. We have some listed on the right, and the Alachua County Community Remembrance project has  media and documents online to get you started. Databases, books, eBooks, websites, magazines, newspapers, oral histories, images, government documents, data, and survey results can all be sources for research. If you're not able to find any sources of information for your choice, ask for help! Librarians are here to answer your questions. Don't be afraid to change your topic at this stage of research.

3. Search for information. In the digital age, we know that it is easy to search for information. What is difficult is finding the right information. We suggest sticking with library resources and talking to a librarian first, but, if you have to use Google, make sure you add ".org" or ".edu" to the end of your search words to prioritize the most reliable information. Google Scholar is also a reliable alternative for information seeking. Be specific in your searches and keep a log of the different key words that you use and whether you got any results. During this stage, you will likely find a lot of information and not have much time to read them. Download a free resource management tool, like Zotero, and install the plug-in to your favorite internet browser to save pages and documents easily. If you're having a difficult time finding information, ask for help or consider going back to steps one or two. 

4. Evaluate information. Most information has bias, even a historic government document must have its context reviewed. You can tell when something is too biased if it feels too emotional, does not address any counter arguments, is over simplified, or if the word choice is very extreme. Ask yourself the "who, what, when, where, and why" questions about the document and its origins. Then, evaluate how well it relates to your topic, theme, or event. If you're having difficulty finding trustworthy information, go back to steps two and three to find more information. Ask for help if you're unsure. For more tips on evaluating sources, read our blog.

5. Use information. Once you have all the research done, it is time to use the information to write your essay. This is a good time to look back at your notes and reread your topic, theme, or event and decide how you want to answer the question in 800-1000 words, "Based on the theme or topic and historical event you selected, how does the history of racial injustice help to explain present-day injustice in our society? How can this history be overcome in order to change the challenges our nation is facing today?"  

Local History Resources

  • Joel Buchanan African American Oral History Archives. Suggested keyword searches: "Fifth Avenue"
  • Gainesville Sun Archives. Email with the date of the isse, the page number, and the column number of the article that you'd like to read
  • View Historic Documents. Available through the library's heritage collection, you can view local history documents such as the Alachua Portrait: Living Heritage project
  • View Historic Images. Available through the library's heritage collection, you can view local history images to piece together the story of race in Alachua County
  • Review local history books. Email to request to view or have pages sent to you of these books on local history. You can view more information about each by searching the catalog.
  • Watch the film "In the Shadow of Plantations" produced by Alachua County narrated and written by Dr. Patricia Hilliard-Nunn on the history of enslavement in Alachua County
  • Learn about historic Alachua County through historic markers

Other resources