About us

Texas After Violence Project explores the death penalty in Texas through oral history. We preserve these oral histories and supplementary documentation at our website and at the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI), a digital archive housed at the University of Texas at Austin. We seek to use these oral histories in educational settings to generate conversations about histories of violence in Texas, and the state's and the community's responses to violence, and the ways we speak to each other about these histories. Classroom teachers and professors have already started incorporating TAVP oral histories into their lesson plans, and we hope to support their efforts as we move forward by building curricula and building digital tools so that students, researchers, policymakers and the general public may access our materials and use them in creative ways.  

You can learn more about us by exploring our website: Texas After Violence Project

About our name

Our name--Texas After Violence Project--is intentionally janus-headed, looking to the past as we simultaneously imagine a future. Our core work involves listening to and documenting the past--what has happened before and "after violence": the first-hand experiences of people directly affected by murder and the community and state's response to murder, including the death penalty. Our oral history interviews range over the landscape of memory, creating space for people to reflect on the way their experiences int he towns, cities, suburbs, and rural counties of Texas have shaped their individual and communal identities. 

Our name also contains within it a nod toward the future, and even a utopian gesture: What would a Texas "after violence" look like? Since our oral histories necessarily engage with violence and traumatic events and subjects emerging from Texas' past and present, we want to also intentionally cultivate spaces of hope, where people can imagine different outcomes and alternative futures. What experiences and histories are available to us to build a more just and less violent Texas, a Texas inclusive of all? We archive, share and reflect on our past in order to make the resources and histories of our communities available for future research, deliberation and public discussion. 

About our logo

Our logo consists of the mockingbird, which is the state bird of Texas, encircled by a wreath. By choosing the state bird for our logo, we remind ourselves and our audience that our work is grounded in as well as nurtured and governed by our local context. Even as we are also aware of the way people, ideas, and events travel across boundaries, we remain committed to examining local histories and understanding local dynamics and cultures. And even as we also aspire to reach those beyond the borders of our state with our digital archive, we remain committed to first engaging and conversing with our wide circle of neighbors--with those who reside in the state Texas.

Our local context includes the fact that Texas leads the nation in executions; murder rates are high in our cities; and we have one of the largest prison systems in the country. While for many these facts are part of their lived experience, for others in Texas these phenomena lie just outside of consciousness. We see these phenomena as an essential part of the story of our state, and we believe oral history is one way to ensure they are documented as part of our collective history.

Like many in our field, we see oral history as a form of grassroots democratic engagement and a method of community-building. We recognize a link between a general emphasis on individualism, a disinterest in and devaluing of our histories and a malaise in our communities. We view it as part of our mission to resurrect the past and to facilitate the forging of a link between people's personal histories (often considered "private") and the broader history of the community and the state. As people share their memories and put their past into words, and as we listen to their reminiscences, we collectively create the conditions and the space for the emergence of new histories, new interpretations of old histories, and new visions of Texas.