Mixed Race: Looking Back to the Beginning

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I’ll admit that I wasn’t thrilled when I learned that I would be covering people who identify as mixed race for News21. I had spent my spring semester in my Carnegie Seminar examining the voting behaviors of native and foreign-born Latinos. I was bit disheartened to learn that I had been assigned to a new topic that I knew very little about.

Having been on a press trip to Jordan for the first week, I got back to find out I was assigned to work with Kimberly, Shauna and Chris. According to a recent Census estimates, multiracial Americans are the fastest growing demographic in the country. These estimates, which were released in May, led to a switch in focus for some of the Maryland fellows. I was part of this newly formed group.

Luckily, my first task was to produce a historical timeline about mixed race in the United States. Because this topic is largely underreported, researching this history gave me a good grasp of the subject. I then had to take what I had just learned and present it to the public.

Once I learned that I was working with chronological facts, I thought about using Vuvox.com to build an interactive timeline. Vuvox is a great tool that let me incorporate video, audio, photos and text. I spent my first few weeks of News21 locating photos and documents for this timeline and piecing it all together.

The result is a timeline that the user can cursor over and access as much information as he or she desires. By scrolling through the timeline, the user will see general dates and headlines for some of the major events that pertain to mixed race. I started with the first interracial marriage on record, between Pocahontas and John Rolfe, and ended with the inauguration of Barack Obama and a look ahead at the 2010 Census.

The timeline also has 29 “hot-spots” that can be selected by the user to learn more about a specific topic. Each hot-spot has a short paragraph and another multimedia element. The user will either be able to access video, audio or a photo slideshow when he or she selects a specific item. I also included hyperlinks to other News21 stories in order to expose the user to more of our content.

Hopefully, our users will spend time exploring the history of mixed race through this interactive visual. By allowing the user to select which information he or she would like access, we are gambling that our content is interesting, innovative and will keep the user on our Web page.

Post by: 
Andrew Smith
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