AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic – Course Collaboration, Kaitlin Barkley

After multiple class sessions introducing our archival and manuscript collections and oral history best practices, students in Dr. Nneka Dennie’s Spring 2019 AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic course produced a documentary using oral histories created throughout the semester. These materials will be donated to the Archives.

In addition to this main project, students were tasked with identifying primary sources from local archives, historic sites, and/or repositories that shed light on the lived experiences of enslaved women or women enslavers. The following series of blog posts are authored by these students upon the completion of this archival research process and serve as reflective pieces.

Thank you for your submissions-and a wonderful semester of fruitful collaborations!

“Primary Source Analysis”

written by Kaitlin Barkley

Archives tell a story through its pictures, diary entries, posters, and assortment of documents. Each curated source, like a puzzle piece, placed together to create a portrait of the past… but often the picture is incomplete. Like a puzzle with missing pieces, the archives often miss important narratives from voices that were marginalized or oppressed at the time. Therefore, although the archives tell a story, the story comes full of biases and half-truths. As an audience knowing this, what do you do with these stories? How do you look at them without falling into its inevitable trap?

 

Saidiya Hartman in her article “Venus in Two Acts” suggests that the archives, especially those that curate materials on slavery, are inherently violent because of the ways they continue systems of power and oppression. The biggest example of this is the lack, and quite frankly erasure, of enslaved and free women’s voices in the archives. More times than not, there are endless piles of diaries, documents, and pictures of men of varying statuses, occupations and ages. And is compared to the few token materials archives have about women. This stark difference shows the importance placed of the lives and voices of men. Regardless, Hartman suggest that one solution to this inevitable trap is narratives found outside of the archives because they often help supplement the gaps within its archival stories especially about women. Additionally, simply understanding the gaps and limitation of the archives.

 

Hartman’s words stuck with me as I searched through the archives on slavery in North Carolina, curated by different institutions around the country. To be frank, I wasn’t surprised by how difficult it was even to find materials about the home lives of women. Even when using words that stereotypically denoted occupations and social position for women, I only found materials written or about men. Nevertheless, I found two sources that I thought paired well together because of their contrasting content.

 

The first source was a poster advertising the start of the Mecklenburg Female College. The poster was created by the college in 1867 illustrating the college’s main building, the cost per semester for amenities, and a short paragraph about the purpose and benefits of the college. In the paragraph, the college boasted about being a qualified and “devoted to female education”. This advertisement is contrasted by a correspondence I found between Mary Gibson and her brother Robert Gibson, a Davidson College Board of Trustee. In the letter, she writes to her brother asking him to make a confederate bond so that she can have access to her money in order to purchase two enslaved women.

 

Scanned page of handwritten text by Mary Gibson to her brother, Robert, on November 2, 1863. In the document, Mary complains about how the Civil War has made it difficult to find slave labor.

First of two pages written by Mary Gibson to her brother, Robert, on November 2, 1863.

 

Both documents are connected to the lives of white women in North Carolina during slavery. The first, about Mecklenburg Female College, is implicitly connected to slavery. It causes us, as an audience, to consider how these young women’s education is being paid for. The latter source, is explicitly connected to enslavement. Yet, both sources help establishes a fuller narrative about the impact of slavery on womanhood in North Carolina.

 

These two materials are only three years apart…I am left wondering in those three years how many other stories, tied to archival sources, remain undiscovered.



AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic – Course Collaboration, Bry Reed

After multiple class sessions introducing our archival and manuscript collections and oral history best practices, students in Dr. Nneka Dennie’s Spring 2019 AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic course produced a documentary using oral histories created throughout the semester. These materials will be donated to the Archives.

In addition to this main project, students were tasked with identifying primary sources from local archives, historic sites, and/or repositories that shed light on the lived experiences of enslaved women or women enslavers. The following series of blog posts are authored by these students upon the completion of this archival research process and serve as reflective pieces.

Thank you for your submissions-and a wonderful semester of fruitful collaborations!

“Examining The Politics of The Archive”

written by Bry Reed

There are a few things you prepare for when going on a Spring Break trip: the lines at the airport, the long flight, the sunshine. When going on a Spring Trip to Barbados, however, to study the legacies of women and slavery on the island, you prepare yourself for a few additional things. Beyond the sunshine, I prepared myself to delve deeply into the brilliance of Bajan archival history. Before leaving Barbados, I would start to question the politics of archives themselves as institutions for their role in accessing information.

Several students gather around a plaque in a large field marking the cemetery of enslaved persons in Barbados.
Students in the AFR 329 course visit the largest known cemetery of enslaved persons in Barbados. The enslaved woman at Newton Plantation who practiced “obeah” is buried, here.


In visiting The Barbados Museum and Historical Society, I quickly realized that archival work is not a small feat. It is an expansive task of displaying the depth, wealth, and expansiveness of history. All the while connecting materials to an abundance of lived experiences, lineages, and legacies. While detailing the religious history of enslaved Black communities alongside white enslavers, the museum featured a red and orange gemstone recovered from Newton Plantation. The museum’s description of this stone explains that it allegedly belonged to a powerful enslaved woman at Newton who practiced “obeah” (a word synonymous with hoodoo).

The large stone intrigued me for its archival value and religious significance. I admired the choice by the Barbados Museum and Historical Society to acquire and display the object in the core exhibit. It is important that we as scholars recognize that the choices on acquiring materials and displaying them happen intentionally. It takes money, work, and dedication to shape history.

The presence of the stone in the Bajan national archive adds a mark of institutional legitimacy often not afforded to African and Caribbean religious practices. These modes of religious expressions suffer severe demonization across the African Diaspora that renders them “illegitimate”. The choice to display the obeah stone publicly combats silencing in the archive that stems from anti-Blackness and ongoing colonization of academic spaces. More broadly, making space to explore the role of obeah via the archives creates avenues for Black feminist scholars, like myself, to draw broader connections across disciplines and borders.

It is my hope that scholars interrogate the politics of the archives they explore. Who is represented within them? Who is silenced? Who is put on display? In answering these questions, we reconcile with the larger questions about access, silence, and colonization within the institution of archives themselves.

AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic – Course Collaboration, Uyen Nguyen

After multiple class sessions introducing our archival and manuscript collections and oral history best practices, students in Dr. Nneka Dennie’s Spring 2019 AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic course produced a documentary using oral histories created throughout the semester. These materials will be donated to the Archives.

In addition to this main project, students were tasked with identifying primary sources from local archives, historic sites, and/or repositories that shed light on the lived experiences of enslaved women or women enslavers. The following series of blog posts are authored by these students upon the completion of this archival research process and serve as reflective pieces.

Thank you for your submissions-and a wonderful semester of fruitful collaborations!

“Enslaved Female Representation in Slave Advertisement During the Antebellum period (1784-1860)”

written by Uyen Nguyen

Slavery was the main economic and political force that shaped the culture and social life of North Carolina. The treatment of enslaved 1 people worsened due to the whites’ fear of abolition. Under increasing brutality and violence of Black Codes, many enslaved individuals in the South attempted to run away to the North with the hope to gain manumission. Enslavers suffered a massive economic loss when their slaves 2 ran away. In order to have their “property” returned, they hired slave catchers and disseminated advertisements rewarding individuals who could find their runaway slaves.

Screenshot of the homepage for the Introduction to the North Carolina Slave Runaway Advertisements database, "A brief history of slavery in North Carolina."
Introduction to the North Carolina Runaway Slave Advertisements database, “A brief history of slavery in North Carolina.” The organization of this database is led by UNCG and NC A&T University.

While enslaved women were less likely to run away than men due to familial commitments and geographic limitations, they were more likely to get caught because there were more advertisements reporting them as running away. Besides serving as a common tool to find their runaway slaves, 3 slave runaway advertisements were disseminated by white people as propaganda to further criminalize the resistance of enslaved people in means of legal and moral justifications. Furthermore, the representation of women in these ads perpetuated the inferiorization of enslaved women and their bodies.

In a runaway slave advertisement created by John McCord on the 23rd of August, 1838, an enslaved women named Lucy disappeared during her shift at another plantation. The ad 4 describes Lucy as “about 25 years of age, very black, and about five feet high and slender.” Like 5 features of other runaway slave advertisements, the color of this enslaved women, as well as her “immoral act,” were mentioned.

In the ad, her owner accuses her of stealing a cotton frock and taking the clothes with her during the escape. With the use of language such as “very black” and the inclusion of the enslaved women’s stealing, this ad further perpetuates the inferiority of enslaved women based on their skin color and how their enslavers have the legal and moral rights to have her returned. In another runaway ad, enslaver Samuel Sugg reported an enslaved woman named Sylvia on December 10, 1824, who escaped his plantation in Wake Forest, North Carolina.

She was 35 years old, and the ad describes her as “very black, low set and chunkey 6 made.” Sugg suspected that she was passing as a free woman and would reward any person that “will take her up and lodge her in jail.” Indeed, by giving any person a right to confine Sylvia, 7 her owner conveys that her runway act and passing as a free woman are against the law and should be punished with imprisonment. In addition, she was described as sneaky and “rather a 8 down look when spoken to, and a very palavering tongue.” In this ad, we can see Sylvia’s whole existence is constructed through her owner’s description, and her character and moral compass were assassinated with dehumanizing languages. Her skin color and attributes were the only things that seemed significant about her, as they conveyed her criminality and mischievous behaviors. In the big picture, this type of representation reinforces the inferiorization of Black women’s bodies and how their body “was regarded by much of American society as no more than biddable property.” 9

In these ads, white owners give the rights to anyone to use violence against their slaves because of their immoral act of running away. It was no longer an individual effort to find the enslaved, but it became a societal effort to reclaim the runway enslaved who were the “property” that belonged to white people. Through the language used to describe runaway slaves, we can see the hyper-criminalization in which enslaved resistance was propagandized as immoral and illegal. The enslaved female representation in these ads was racist and dehumanizing and reinforced the notion that enslaved women’s worth is solely based on their body. By describing runaway enslaved as inferiors and criminals, white owners concealed their violence and brutal acts, which were the reasons for the enslaved to run away, and framed themselves as the losing parties.

Bibliography

Boyd, B. P. “$20 Reward.” Charlotte Journal. March 5, 1840.

Camp, Stephanie M. H. Closer to Freedom : Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South. Gender and American Culture. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. 2004. Accessed April 19, 2019.

Sugg, Samuel. “Ran Away.” Raleigh Register and North Carolina Weekly Advertiser. May 27, 1825

Winer, Samantha. “A brief history of slave in North Carolina.” N.C. Runaway Slave Advertisement. Accessed April 19, 2019. http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/history/collection/RAS.

Footnotes

1 Samantha Winer, “A brief history of slave in North Carolina,” N.C. Runaway Slave Advertisement, accessed April 19,2019. http://libcdm1.uncg.edu/cdm/history/collection/RAS 2 Ibid. 3 Stephanie M. H. Camp, Closer to Freedom : Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South, Gender and American Culture, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. 2004, Accessed April 19, 2019. 4 B. P. Boyd, “$20 Reward,” Charlotte Journal, March 5, 1840. 5 Ibid. 6 Samuel Sugg, “Ran Away,” Raleigh Register and North Carolina Weekly Advertiser, May 27, 1825 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid.

9 Stephanie M. H. Camp, Closer to Freedom : Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South, Gender and American Culture, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. 2004, Accessed April 19, 2019.

Justice, Equality, Community (JEC) Student and Alumni Advisory Council

The Justice, Equality, Community (JEC) grant is a three year, campus-wide initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support increased interdisciplinary engagement with issues of race, gender, religion, and social justice within the humanities at Davidson College.

The grant documents state: “A more publicly available and promoted archives will inspire transdisciplinary coursework in the humanities through the use of archival materials, promote avenues for increased original student research in the humanities, and enable Davidson to develop reciprocal relationships with community partners—all in support of increased dialogue around issues of justice, equality, and community in the curriculum and in the community.”

To accomplish these goals, the archival component of this initiative has four main tasks:

· Identify and digitize JEC collections.

· Integrate JEC materials into at least 5 new courses.

· Expand archival collections related to JEC, particularly the oral history collections.

· Lead public programming about JEC materials, both on campus and in the larger community.

Jethro Rumple reminiscing about the college circa 1840

This handwritten reminiscence of life at Davidson College was written in the 1840s by an alumnus, Reverend Jethro Rumple. The document contains a description of the College President’s “body servant,” Esom. This item was digitized with JEC grant funds and can be found on DigitalNC.org.

In order to more effectively engage our audiences and build a stronger collection, we selected a thematic focus for each year. For the academic year 2017 – 2018, we focused on 19th century Davidson. Working with partners like DigitalNC and H.F. Group, we identified and digitized thousands of items related to this theme. These materials are available through Davidson College’s research guides – a centralized platform familiar to our students and faculty, while also being accessible to the general public.

We have built on these efforts throughout the 2018 – 2019 academic year by highlighting and expanding our records related to alumni and student activism through support for course-based oral history projects, the on-going digitization of our existing oral history collections, and more targeted student outreach. 

Some of these materials have already been incorporated into a variety of classes, including Introduction to Africana Studies (AFR 101), Environmental History (ENV 256), Slavery and Africa (HIS 366), Native Women (HIS 243), WRI 101, the Humanities Program (HUM 103, 104), US Latinx History (HIS 259), Women and Slavery in the Black Atlantic (AFR 329), and Origins of the American South (HIS 242).

Green Books, Contempo magazine, For 2 Cents Plain, and MLK publications arranged on a table for a Humanities course.

Special collections material pulled for the Fall 2018 Humanities course.

In many of these classes, as well as others, students often express concern that “Davidson is always talking about where we’re going, but rarely talks about where we’ve been.” Students wonder about how their legacy will be represented—and if it will be represented.

Understanding we were uniquely positioned to address this concern, we formed the JEC Student and Alumni Advisory Council—if we were targeting students, we wanted to empower students as full archival partners to recognize their labor for us, as well as in the community.

The JEC Advisory Council, composed of Davidson College students and recent alumni and led by the JEC Project Archivist, was established in the Fall 2018 semester to document and publicize the ways in which students have engaged with and responded to historical and contemporary manifestations of injustice and inequality in Davidson and the surrounding area.

Image of students, townsfolk, and professors interacting with archival materials in the fishbowl as part of the Davidson Disorientation Tour in 2018.
Attendees interacting with archival materials during the debriefing session for the Davidson Disorientation Tour co-led by one of our council members, H.D. (April 2018).

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE

Supported by the archival portion of the JEC Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant, we are working to synthesize information from academic, administrative, and social spheres for a better understanding of campus culture and greater acknowledgment of student work. The ultimate goal of this project is to address gaps between student needs and institutional responses, empower students to better leverage archival resources, and to promote dialogue around increased accountability for supporting student-led projects. 

To accomplish this, we will identify, collect, and digitize the data, records, and oral histories of student organizations and their community partners, both through the acquisition of existing documentation and the recording of information that does not exist in a formal or textual source; following this, we will organize programming according to our findings in order to facilitate meaningful conversations and tangible impacts. 

We are confident that, in addition to meeting our primary goals, this project will also promote a better understanding of the archives as a resource and increase transparency around the processes and accessibility of college documentation, thus creating a foundation for future projects and coalitions.

MEMBERSHIP

Kaitlin Barkley, ’21

Yashita Kandhari, ’20

H.D. Mellin, ’20

Carlos Miranda Pereya, ’18

Arianna Montero-Colbert, ’19

Jonathan Shepard-Smith, ’18

The statement of purpose was written and approved by the inaugural members of the JEC Student and Alumni Advisory Council in March 2019. The group has met on a monthly basis since January 2019. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Jessica Cottle at jecottle@davidson.edu.

The Davidson College Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns, 1984

The Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns was appointed by Davidson College President John Kuykendall on September 10, 1984 in response to growing student frustration around support for students of color, particularly as related to academic resources and campus social climate (see page 28 of the Report).

Page 28 of the Task Force on Racial Concerns which lists the "past and current actions" of Davidson's Black Student Coalition between 1970 and 1984.
From page 28 of the Final Report: “The Black Student Coalition works to present black cultural events and opportunities to learn more about the Black Experience.”

Twenty appointees and one recorder made up the Task Force’s membership. Those members were chosen by either the college president or by a committee as representatives of five distinct groups, each delineated, below:

Students:

  • John C. Laughlin (Student Government Association President)
  • Janet Stovall (Black Student Coalition President)
  • Andrew Yon (R.A.C.E President)
  • Atondra Williams (Appointed by Student Senate)
  • Rodney Holman (Appointed by Student Senate)

Faculty:

  • Dr. R. Bruce Jackson (Co-chairman, appointed by the president)
  • Dr. John Kelton (Vice Chairman pro-tem of the faculty)
  • Dr. Lauren Yoder (chosen by faculty executive committee)
  • Dr. J. Alberta Hernandez-Chiroldes (chosen by faculty executive committee             

Administrators:

  • Will Terry (Dean of Students)
  • Dr. John Griffith (Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, co-chairman, appointed by the president)
  • Dr. T.C. Price Zimmermann (Dean of Faculty)
  • Paula Miller (appointed by the Advisory Committee on Minorities)
  • Dr. Leland Park (Library Director)

Alumni:

  • Daniel Clodfelter
  • Dan LaFar, Jr.
  • Calvin Murphy

Trustees:

  • Dr. Thelma Adair
  • John A. Mawhinney, Jr.
  • Dr. J. Randolph Taylor

Recorder:

  • Dr. Malcolm O. Partin

These members were then divided into one of the four following committees: Past Davidson Committee, Current Davidson Committee, Higher Education Committee, and Policy Committee. Each group conducted in-depth research on their respective topics for inclusion in a report due to the campus community “no later than November 30, 1984.”

A paragraph snippet from page 3 of the Task Force's final report. The paragraph states, "Through a series of discussion forums, to be held in early January, the Task Force plans to record, consider and include in the report the reaction of faculty, staff, students and alumni of Davidson College."
From page 3 of the Final Report: “Through a series of discussion forums, to be held in early January, the Task Force plans to record, consider and include in the report the reaction of faculty, staff, students and alumni of Davidson College.”

After submitting the report, the Task Force made the document available for comment and critique through a series of forums. This feedback was either included or reflected in the final report submitted to the college president in February 1985.   

The Report presented several critical conclusions that later led to some institutional changes, a selection of which are paired and outlined, below:

Screenshot of page 10 of the Task Force's Final Report. The report states: “While, in the judgment of the Task Force, Davidson's current efforts in student, faculty and staff recruitment are similar to the best efforts of a number of the schools visited, our efforts in terms of social and academic support for black students are less adequate.”
From page 10 of the Final Report: “While, in the judgment of the Task Force, Davidson’s current efforts in student, faculty and staff recruitment are similar to the best efforts of a number of the schools visited, our efforts in terms of social and academic support for black students are less adequate.”
A memo dated September 3, 1986 sent to all faculty and staff about the formation of SCOPE (Standing Committee on Pluralistic Environments) in response to findings from the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns. Membership included: Paula Miller, Brenda Tapia, William Brown, Charlie Summers, Gary Mason, Tom Jennings, Mark Lomax, Debbie Young, Ruth Pittard, Jack Perry, and Ruth Ault.
Memo sent to all faculty and staff about the formation of SCOPE (Standing Committee on Pluralistic Environments) in response to findings from the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns (September 3, 1986). SCOPE facilitated and promoted programming designed to inform the campus community about pressing social issues and discrimination.
A group of about one dozen students balancing on a log as part of the August 1984 FOCUS Davidson College orientation program.
FOCUS, August 1984. FOCUS was a Davidson College orientation program that was re-organized to better address the needs of incoming African American students after the Task Force report was completed.
Excerpt from page 27 of the Task Force's final report that states: “Surveys of and interviews with black students point to this as a significant area of concern. Naive comments and stereotyped images projected by some students, faculty and staff reflect a lack of experience with and sensitivity to blacks. Recognizing this fact as a failure of our educational system, blacks and non-blacks alike have called for more opportunities to address this concern. The Project '87 proposal (see Appendix 16) represents a culmination of this expression of concern and focused on: the academic program, minority representation in the community, programming and social life.”
From page 27 of the Final Report: “Surveys of and interviews with black students point to this as a significant area of concern. Naive comments and stereotyped images projected by some students, faculty and staff reflect a lack of experience with and sensitivity to blacks…The Project ’87 proposal (see Appendix 16) represents a culmination of this expression of concern and focused on: the academic program, minority representation in the community, programming and social life.”
A scan of the second page of the February 1988 Black Student Coalition newsletter. Included is the date for the formation of the Davidson Black Alumni Network (DBAN) - January 30, 1988.
This is the second page of the February 1988 Black Student Coalition newsletter. The newsletter details resources available on campus, as well as the formation of the Davidson Black Alumni Network (DBAN). Support for DBAN was specifically requested in the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns (1984).
This is the third page of the Davidson College Black Student Coalition newsletter from February 1988. Note the closing message - "Sometime in February, black alumni will meet with Dr. Kuykendall once again to follow-up on the task force report.
This is the third page of the Davidson College Black Student Coalition newsletter from February 1988. Note the closing message – “Sometime in February, black alumni will meet with Dr. Kuykendall once again to follow-up on the task force report.”
A black professor assists a black student with a microscope as part of the 1995 Love of Learning summer program.
A professor with the Love of Learning program assists a student (1995). Love of Learning was established and led by Davidson College assistant chaplain Rev. Brenda Tapia in 1988 when four classes of 8th grade African American students were selected for the pilot five year program. Through Rev. Tapia, Davidson College, in partnership with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, designed the program to enable secondary and post-secondary educational success for “at risk” and “promising” students by considering the whole person in addition to their academic needs.
The 1988 pilot class for the Love of Learning program. Rev. Brenda Tapia, the newly hired assistant chaplain, stands in the middle of the photograph in the red t-shirt.
The 1988 pilot class for the Love of Learning program. Rev. Brenda Tapia, the leader of the Love of Learning program, was hired as an assistant chaplain in direct response to the Task Force report. Rev. Tapia stands in the middle of the photograph in the red t-shirt.

The Task Force ended their report by stating, “…we hope that the “wheel will not need to be reinvented” when there is significant representation of another racial/ethnic group in our community. It is important that members of the community think creatively about implementation of strategies so that members of other racial/ethnic groups can avoid the problems blacks have experienced,” (41). One way the Archives facilitates this closing goal is by preserving and providing access to documents that detail the work and responses of previous generations.

A screenshot from page 41 of the Task Force's final report that states: “…we hope that the "wheel will not need to be reinvented" when there is significant representation of another racial/ethnic group in our community. It is important that members of the community think creatively about implementation of strategies so that members of other racial/ethnic groups can avoid the problems blacks have experienced,”
Page 41 from the Final Report of the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Concerns, 1984.

If you are interested in reading the full report, Archives & Special Collections is open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. You can read this report and similar documents upon appointment – simply email archives@davidson.edu with your research question and we will find an available time.

National Park and Recreation Month: Davidson College Arboretum

Green brochure front with a cluster of leaves in the center, "arboretum" typed across the top, "Davidson College" written just below the leaves.

Arboretum Brochure, Front Page

Since 1985, the National Park and Recreation Association (NPRA) has promoted July as National Park and Recreation Month. As part of these efforts, the NPRA encourages people to appreciate the importance of parks and recreational facilities to STEM education, community gathering and engagement, wild life preservation, and public health – among others.

In recognition of this celebration, we invite you to learn more about the Davidson College campus, which is also a nationally recognized and protected working arboretum.

The campus earned this designation in 1982 when then college president Samuel Spencer received a letter from Henry Cathey, the director of the National Arboretum, requesting the grounds of the college be used as a working arboretum. With the addition of a generous donation from the estate of forestry enthusiast Edwin Latimer Douglass, Physical Plant led an aerial photography and mapping project of the campus to facilitate the preservation of the space.

Four men surround new aerial image of the college campus.

Four men surround new aerial image of the college campus, 1991

But how did the college’s landscape become so unique that it merited this recognition?

The first mention of intentional grounds planning occurs in the first volume of The Meetings of the Board of Trustees of Davidson College. The minutes for February 28, 1855 state: “A communication was read signed by a few ladies of Davidson College, earnestly requesting the Board to take into consideration the propriety of enclosing the college campus, and a general remodeling of college grounds.”

Feb 28, 1855 meeting minutes from the Board of Trustees. Discusses tree plantings.

Feb 28, 1855 meeting minutes from the Board of Trustees

 

This is followed up in the Annual Faculty Report of 1860 – 1861 which commented: “During last spring, the students, at the suggestion of the faculty, undertook to set out each a tree for the embellishment of the campus.” By 1869, reports indicated that such plantings would deliberately attempt to replicate the general forestry and botany of the state and region.

 

June 22, 1869 meeting minutes from the Board of Trustees discussing how the plants should reflect local botany.

June 22, 1869 meeting minutes from the Board of Trustees

 

Today, the college arboretum includes five tree species which were extinct on the North American continent sometime between 2 and 50 million years ago. Since their re-planting in Davidson, they have survived several hurricanes, ice storms, and campus landscaping alterations.

 

Descriptions of five extinct species in arboretum brochure, including Cunninghamia lanceolata, Koelreuteria paniculata, Metasequoia, glyptostroboides, Zelkova serrata, Ginko biloba.

Descriptions of extinct species in arboretum brochure

 

Umbrella Tree Poem from the 1909 Quips & Cranks, picture of the tree on top of the vertically oriented text.

Umbrella Tree Poem from the 1909 Quips & Cranks

 

Student relaxing against tree after Hurricane Hugo

Student relaxing against tree after Hurricane Hugo

 

So the next time you enjoy the shade provided by our carefully constructed and maintained landscape, stop and look for a small metal plaque where you will find information about the tree’s name and history. Want more information? The Archives holds several copies of the Elm Row Newsletter – a campus publication once dedicated to stories about the college grounds and distributed by campus staff.

1997 Elm Row newsletter, front page. Columns describe campus plants.

1997 Elm Row newsletter, front page

 

Related posts:
25th Anniversary of Hurricane Hugo
Campus Maps 

Guest Blogger: Hunter Murphy, “Take Me Out To The Cat’s Park”

My name is Hunter Murphy and I am from Cincinnati, OH. I am approaching my junior year at Davidson and I am majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Chinese Studies. I am ecstatic about working with Archives this summer as the JEC Archival Assistant and I cannot wait to see what history lies uncovered in the files at the Archives.

I was helping moving some files to south storage the other day when we came across a box a old sports equipment where we found these baseballs dating back to as early as 1921. I was especially interested in the two older looking balls that said, “Dav-5 Duke-0” and, “The Last One”. I did some research an although I didn’t find anything on the baseball that said, “Dav-5 Duke-0” I did find that the baseball saying, “The Last One” was the game ball from the final game of the 1927 season between Davidson and Furman, Davidson winning 16-5. All of the players signed the baseball commemorating the 1927 season.

1927 baseball from the game between Davidson and Furman with the palyers names on it and, "Last Baseball of My Last Game for Davidson" and the score inscribed, "Davidson 16 Furman 5"

“The Last One” Baseball from the last game of the 1927 season with the names of the players and the score written on it.

A baseball with "To Davidson - 100 Great Years of Baseball" and signatures of past players on it.

A baseball with “To Davidson – 100 Great Years of Baseball” and signatures of past players on it.

Baseball from a game against Duke, "Dav-5 Duke-0" written on it

Baseball from a game against Duke, “Dav-5 Duke-0” written on it.

 

It is crazy to think that the sports being played now started over a hundred years ago and how much the game of baseball has evolved over the years. The baseball saying, “To Davidson-100 Great Years of Baseball” is right. It shows how far baseball at Davidson has come, which is why I am going to give a little bit of history on Davidson baseball.

The first mention of baseball was back in 1870 when two clubs (the Mecklenburgs and the Red Jackets) were in existence. Every Saturday morning the members were excused form the literary society meetings t

Baseball from 1921 with, "Davidson Baseball 1921" written on it.

Baseball from 1921 with, “Davidson Baseball 1921” written on it.

o take part in a game. However, they were not allowed to play other schools. It was not until 1902 that intercollegiate baseball was founded at Davidson and was then allowed to play other collegiate teams. Since then they joine1892 baseball teamd the Southern Conference from 1947-1988, left the Southern conference to become independent from 1989-1991, back to the Southern Conference from 1992-2014, and finally joined the Atlantic-10 in 2015 where they currently play their games. They’ve sent multiple individuals to MLB organizations, most recently Will Robertson, drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, and Durin O’Linger, signed a free agent contract with the Box Red Sox organization. Davidson made its way to its first A-10 Conference Championship just a year after joining in 2016 but fell short. The year after Davidson rallied back and won the 2017 A-10 Conference Championship and went on

Davidson baseball game, image of the Davidson catcher diving to tag out a U.N.C. Chapel Hill runner at home plate.

Davidson baseball game, image of the Davidson catcher diving to tag out a U.N.C. Chapel Hill runner at home plate.

to beat U.N.C. Chapel Hill to win the Regional Championship sending them to the first ever Super-Regionals in college history. Davidson  Back in 1990

Davidson traveled to play the Miami Hurricanes, the number one team in the nation, and won 3-2! Then again in 1994 Davidson beat Georgia Tech, the number 1 team in the nation, and won 6-4. Davidson went from not being able to play other college team to winning a Conference Championship and going to the Super-Regionals. Davidson baseball has come so far, I cannot wait to see what the future holds in store for the Cats.

#CATSAREWILD

Digitization and Historical Context: Analyzing Trustee and Faculty Minutes

The archives hold several bound volumes of minutes from the meetings of the trustees and faculty of Davidson College. The trustees met at irregular intervals throughout the nineteenth century, beginning in 1836, as they discussed monetary issues, student deportment, lack of students, faculty turnover, and the strain imposed by Civil War drafting and rationing. The trustee meetings initially took place at local churches, with several of the trustees representing the various presbyteries that supported the nascent Davidson College.

Though Davidson College classes officially began in 1837, no faculty meeting minutes were kept until 1845. Members of the faculty met weekly between 1845 and 1921 and discussed issues similar to those of the trustees. In 1921, the meetings moved to monthly sessions, meaning there are significantly fewer volumes found for later years.

The first volume of Faculty Minutes for Davidson College also contains the minutes of the Trustees of the Western Carolina College between May 1821 and June 1824. The North Carolina General Assembly authorized the establishment of a college in 1820, subsequently appointing trustees to oversee its development. These trustees met for three years, but were ultimately unable to raise sufficient funds for the effort—though this later gave way to the establishment of Davidson College.

The trustee and faculty minutes contain information about college assets, personal finances, student grades and conduct, curriculum development, and admissions policies. For this reason, minutes taken at these meetings typically have some restrictions to protect the privacy of those involved. Davidson’s trustee minutes have access restrictions for 75 years. There are no restrictions on nineteenth century faculty minutes. The Archives & Special Collections department is making a concerted effort to digitize these volumes, beginning with meetings that shed light on Davidson College’s relationship to and within the slave system, as well as systemic racial discrimination.

One of the most enlightening faculty minutes accounts dates to December 27, 1853, stating:

                “The Faculty having heard that a fight had occurred on the 26th inst., at the lower store, between some of the students and some men from the country, proceeded to investigate the facts in the case. They found as follows:

                That there was a wagon near the store, and several negroes, together with two young men by the name of Washam, near it. Two students, Robert A. H. Neagle and H.T. McDugald, in passing the wagon, accosted some of the negroes, telling them to take off their hates, and on their declining to do so, Neagle knocked off the hat of one of them; these two students then passed on into the store, where they met more negroes whom they accosted in the same way and McDugald, with a stick in his hand, knocked off the hat of one of them.

                The two Washams followed them into the store and asked them if the store belonged to them, and repeated the question when, after some dispute and rough language between the parties, the students came back upon the College Hill to get help and several other students went down and among them, J.T. Kell, who, when he entered the store before the other, enquired for the man (or as some would have it, the negro) who would not take off his hat.

                 One of the Washams came out of the counting room, and replied to him. Neagle and McDugald came in after Kell, and after some words passing between the parties, one of the Washams hit Neagle and then a voice was heard from outside of the door to Kell – “hit him,” and he knocked down Washam with a club which he had brought with him, and Neagle either jumped on him or kicked him in the side, when the other Washam attempted to interfere, but the parties were separated.”

The three named students responsible for the degrading altercation were suspended from the college by the faculty for the remainder of the term the following month.

 

This image is a scan of the first page of the faculty minutes from December 27, 1853. The typescript appears in the main body of the posting.

Davidson College faculty minutes from December 27, 1853.

 

This image is a scan of the second page of the faculty minutes from December 27, 1853. The typescript appears in the main body of the posting.

Davidson College faculty minutes from December 27, 1853, continued.

 

There were also several recorded instances of blackface during the Civil War period. One of these instances was discussed by the faculty on February 19, 1863:

               “Mr. W.H. Scott (pupil in the preparatory department) had been seized by Messrs. Moore, Knox, Glover, Troy, and Watts, and blacked and otherwise insultingly treated by them, and Mr. H.W. Scott, brother of the aforesaid Scott, had been beaten by Mr. Troy for resenting the treatment that his brother had received.

                The two messrs. Scott being called before the Faculty, H.W. Scott was found to be very much bruised about the face, and had evidently been very seriously beaten. Mr. W.H. Scott testified that he went into Mr. Glover’s room on Wednesday night, and having been there a very few minutes, he was seized from behind by Mr. Moore and thrown on the bed and held there by Moore, Knox, Watts, and Glover, and that Mr. Troy blacked his face with soot and tallow. That after he was released, an attempt was made by the same students to make a negro boy kiss him.

                H.W. Scott, being asked the cause of the fight between himself and Mr. Troy, said that he was not present when his brother was so much insulted, but that he went to Mr. Gibson’s room immediately after he heard it, and that Mr. Troy was there’ that Mr. Troy said to him “You ought to have been around to see us black Heathly,” and that he replied that if he had been there it would not have been done without a fight, and that we would cut anyone with his knife who attempted to black him. That Mr. Troy then called him a “damned South Carolina son of a bitch,” and that he (Scott) struck him, and the fight ensued.

                Mr. Troy was called before the Faculty and frankly acknowledged all that he had done and said, which was substantially the same testimony given by the Scotts; and said moreover, that the Scotts had been guilty at various times of stealing wood and other things, and that the blacking was intended to drive them out of the West Wing. That he could prove that they had been guilty of theft, though he had not seen them himself in the act, that could mention those who had, and that he was ready to prove it.”

 

This image is a scan of the first page of faculty minutes from February 1863. The typescript is in the main body of the text.

Davidson College faculty minutes from February 19, 1863.

 

This image is a scan of the second page of faculty minutes from February 1863. The typescript is in the main body of the text.

Davidson College faculty minutes from February 19, 1863, continued.

               

In this case, the students were not initially suspended or expelled from the college for their behavior, but they were publicly admonished. Nearly one month later, on March 10, 1863, the faculty voted on a proposition to make “any student who disguises himself by blacking his face, altering his dress, or by any other means, guilty of a serious offence liable to immediate dismission from College.”

Although these striking accounts occasionally seem vague, we can learn a lot from what language is used, from what information is left out, and comparing these accounts to other records left from the period in question. Making these primary sources publicly available allows researchers to make those comparisons and bring often untold stories to light, while also revealing the historical roots of modern discrimination.