Text Analysis

For this week’s technical activity of text analysis, I chose to analyze positive religious experiences from the North American Slave Database. I am very interested in learning about the devotion of enslaved people to God and further learning how their connection to God helps them continue through the torturous lives they lived.


My research question: “Were enslaved people more inclined to pursue a religion to give them some sort of belonging during their enslaved days?”


I understand this may be a hard question to answer through the usage of Voyant, but I am curious to see how enslaved people perceived religion and God. I chose to analyze Aaron’s, “The Light and Truth of Slavery” from 1845. I am inclined to think both extremes are very evident in enslaved people’s lives. On one hand, an enslaved person could reason that their life has been so horrible and they have been abused and mistreated to the point where there is no hope for a God. They could think that if there was a God, why would God give them this life? Contrary to that opinion, some people might have given any ounce of hope and faith to God to help them through unimaginable times. Using Voyant to try to answer my research question, I focused on the words: Bible, God, Good, Heaven, Hell.

As you can see in this figure, the words God and Good had a high frequency, and they are often used together or near each other. Examining this relationship, I can sensibly conclude that Aaron wrote about his inspiring religious experience and since he related God with the word Good, he found faith during dark times. Additionally, there is an extremely low frequency use of the word Hell. For some reason, this makes me happy? No matter what Aaron went through during his enslaved days, he kept this faith and found hope in God instead of wishing death. That might be a stretch of a comparison, but I am hopeful that he put his faith in the right spot and that is what helped him tell him story. Also looking at the image of the bubblelines, you can further visualize how Aaron used the words God and Good together. You will also notice how, in the beginning, there is a strong correlation between God and Heaven.

As for using Voyant, I thought it was a really cool tool to play around with. Visualizing these different images and seeing how some words appear with others at the same time is really interesting. I think seeing the visual representation of these pieces helps understand a hidden story or meaning behind any piece that you analyze in Voyant. From the word bubble, to the graph of word usage, ad the bubblelines, you notice a pattern of word usage that was not purposefully made. These tools bring to light certain connections within the context that would have otherwise been overlooked. I also would like to add that, with the instructions given by Professor Andrella, this tool was extremely easy to use and play around with.

One thought on “Text Analysis

  1. I’m glad that you chose a theme that interested you and I think your research question is well-constructed– it’s broad enough to gauge an open variety of results from a tool like Voyant. Your choice of words to represent in the graph offered a strong visual representation of key themes significant to the text and some idea of the positive and negative connotation behind religious language in the context of slavery. It is especially striking to me that the terms “God” and “Good” appear more frequently than other terms… As you go on to interpret, I agree that this would definitely suggest that Aaron’s experience reflected one of positivity, hope, and faith. I am so glad to hear that you enjoyed using Voyant and text analysis to answer historical research questions! Thank you for sharing these awesome visuals and thoughts!

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