The Association for Computers and the Humanities is sad to share the news of Angel David Nieves’ passing on December 5, 2023. Angel served on the ACH Executive Council from 2019-2021. While on the exec, Angel was involved with the mentoring program. Most recently, Angel was Dean’s Professor of Public and Digital Humanities and Professor of Africana Studies and History and Director of Public Humanities at Northeastern University. For many years prior, he co-directed the Digital Humanities Initiative (DHi) at Hamilton College, where his beloved husband, Richard Foote, an architect who passed earlier this year, designed the space for the DHi Collaboratory.
Angel was a defining thinker and maker in digital humanities. He is known best for his innovative work on 3D spatial histories and models of sites in apartheid South Africa, recovering stories, including those of queer histories, erased by the apartheid-era regime. Angel was especially proud of his first book, An Architecture of Education: African American Women Design the New South, which Richard edited.
Angel’s contributions to African diaspora digital humanities were formative in moving the broader field of digital humanities forwards to create space for voices and stories that have gone unheard. His commitment to challenging hierarchical power dynamics and to supporting opportunities in digital humanities for others is evident in his vast body of work, including the edited collection People, Practice, Power: Institutions and Infrastructures at the Interstices for the Debates in the Digital Humanities series at the University of Minnesota Press and, most recently, Reckonings, a Boston public history platform for community archivists, supported by the Mellon Foundation. Angel was also one of the creators of DHQuest, which modeled the creation of digital humanities centers in a playful, creative way.
Aside from his substantial academic achievements, Angel was a kind person whose emails always began with an enthusiastic “Howz’it?” — and he really wanted to know how you were. He was quick to offer support, wisdom, and encouragement to his colleagues. Angel brought an open mind and an open heart to his interactions with the digital humanities community. While he was not afraid to fiercely advocate for his beliefs in the transformative possibilities of digital humanities, he modeled how to do that with collegiality and professionalism.
ACH sends its condolences to all who knew and loved Angel. We invite colleagues who wish to share a few words about Angel to be added to this post to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Roopika Risam and Quinn Dombrowski, on behalf of the ACH Executive Council
Tributes from the ACH Community
I will remember Angel for many reasons, not the least of which was his ebullient presence in a room. But my most striking memory of him is this: Angel was the first man I ever heard describe himself as a practitioner of Black feminist scholarship. Maybe he is the only one to date. It was 2013 or 14 and I was a junior scholar co-leading a Digital Humanities Summer Institute class on Intersectional Feminist DH with Liz Losh. I knew about Angel’s work at Hamilton – his work exemplified successful innovative and community responsive research in the SLAC context – and I was a little star struck. I was also profoundly impacted by his model of scholarship and being in the world. We played, we explored, we got angry and refused to back down when people wanted a field statement on ethics and inclusion watered down, and we shared notes about white supremacist patriarchal institutions that wanted to take credit for success but also blocked opportunity and failed to come through on promises. As both of our careers progressed we supported one another with back channels and letters. Angel was sometimes battered by the world – in love with a new gayborhood but profoundly disillusioned with an institution that didn’t make good on its promises, or shot while in the city he loved so much. He didn’t shy away from expressing the hurts, sorrows, and angers – which I think spoke to the degree to which he was open to the world and to sharing its realities. He brought his full, spectacular, brilliant self to everything he did and in so doing modeled for all of us that intersectional harms are viscerally real while also showing us how to connect, love, and be loved in the midst of so much bullshit. The academy didn’t deserve Angel, but the people he worked with, taught, and loved were his real focus and we are all better for his presence in our lives. —Jacqueline Wernimont, Dartmouth College