Rebellion Purpose     
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spacer Overview > Purpose of this site

spacer General Andrew Jackson
  Andrew Jackson was the most powerful man of his era -- and the personal nemesis of the Black Seminoles. He first crossed their path in 1815: See related trail segment.

What is the purpose of this site?

The purpose of this site is two-fold:
  1. To present a great American story, engaging visitors with the little known history of the Black Seminoles; and,

  2. To present this story using the strengths (and avoiding the weaknesses) of the Internet as a communications medium.

Who is the intended audience?

This site is intended for all people with an interest in American history. Students of all ages may find the material engaging, but the site is written for general, adult audiences. 

With a wealth of primary materials, images, and quotations presented in a carefully structured narrative, the site is designed to appeal to both general readers and specialists alike.

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What kind of site is this?

Rebellion is a stand-alone Web documentary created specifically for the Internet.

There are many documentary-oriented sites that serve as companion-pieces to television shows -- Rebellion is not one of these. The companion sites usually give a taste of the television material while avoiding a full presentation of its content over the Web. (Africans in America, the companion site to the PBS documentary series of the same name, is a notable exception.) Almost none of these sites attempt to tell a feature- or book-length story online.

Rebellion, in contrast, is designed to tell a story online in all its breadth and depth while offering visitors the chance to explore a wealth of images, primary documents, and historical topics.

The story unfolds in more than 370 story panels -- individual pages that combine text and imagery, much like the panels in a museum exhibit. You can move through the slides from start to finish, in a linear fashion, or you can explore the story in several other ways, for instance, through an image outline, a series of interactive maps and timelines, extracts on individual characters, analyses of key images, or even a directory of related Web sites.

These non-linear options (except for the other Web sites) all lead back to the trail narrative. The narrative is linear, moving from start to finish like the pages in a book. Even here, however, there are tons of images and numerous digressions (called "sidetracks") that allow you to delve into various topics in greater detail. The text, meanwhile, is presented in short bites structured into brief story segments. This is so the average Web reader, who usually does not have much time, can get part of the story and then decide whether or not to come back later and pick up the thread.

Overall, the idea is to take advantage of the ways that people seem to like accessing information online, such as:
  • Scanning
  • Browsing
  • Searching
  • Clicking on links
  • Exploring
  • Viewing images
None of these ideas are mine, by the way, they are all stolen from Jakob Nielson of

Finally, some of the ideas behind this site are particular to the presentation of history and topics in the humanities.

While preparing this documentary I surveyed a number of historical Web sites. There are some great ones out there. In general, however, the Web is seriously lacking as far as the presentation of history is concerned.

The biggest single problem is simple: the failure to cite sources. If the Web were a 10th-grade research paper, its author would be expelled from school, either for serial plagiarism or flagrant disinformation. If you are creating an historical Web site, please cite your sources!

While wrestling with this and other concerns, I wrote down some of the principles that went into this site. At the risk of great pretense, I will share some of them, which I think are decent principles for any humanities-oriented site.

  • Show your sources, for text and images.
  • Otherwise no one can cross-check your material or find it on their own.

  • Offer primary materials or links to them.
  • This is one of the great things about the Web.

  • Respect copyrights & permissions.
  • Artists deserve the protection, and archives deserve licensing fees, so they can continue to offer materials to the public.

  • Respect your audience.
  • Write for interested readers, not a mythical audience of 10-year-olds.

  • Be linear and non-linear.
  • Offer multiple ways to your information.

  • Leave information to be found.
  • Browsing for information is what people like to do most on the Web.

  • Write in short segments and sequences.
  • The printed page is a better way to read long blocks of text. Don't fight this, work with it.

  • Design with purpose.
  • Beautiful design is fine -- especially when it leads to interesting content.

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Site intro
Slave rebellion intro
Toolkit on the rebellion
Story Synopsis
Why learn their story?
Purpose of this site
Project info
Sponsors & funding
Navigation help
Also see:
Picture tour

Picture tour: a summary of the story in 32 images.