AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic – Course Collaboration, Lucy Walton

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!

“Education, Freedom and the Archives”

written by Lucy Walton

Even today, education is seen as a tool to upward-mobility, and often regarded as (though proven to not be) a great equalizer of people. This view of education is not new, though perceptions of who should have access to education have greatly shifted since the Civil Rights Movement. Although education in the United States remains inequitable today, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who was willing to say that every child did not have the right to go to school. However, in pre-emancipation United States the saying “knowledge is power” instilled a fear in enslavers that education would inevitably lead to enslaved persons’ revolts, runaways and manumissions. In the south, enslaved black people faced intense punishment for seeking education and laws explicitly banned literacy.

The interview of Lizzie Baker, a post-emancipation freed woman, touches a bit on this fear of education enslavers had. Baker herself was very young when emancipation happened, but she recounts stories that her parents told her about their enslavers specifically methods they used to oppress, dehumanize and punish their enslaved people. In the interview she discusses how hunters would try to catch enslaved people by tying ropes across roads to trip them. Then she directly moves into saying “marster and missus did not ‘low [allow] slaves to have a book in deir house. If dey caught a slave wid a book in dey house dey whipped ‘em. Dey were keerful not to let em’ learn reading or writing.” After this she changes topics again to talk about the selling of her siblings. Both the content, and the placement of this quote are telling.

First, it shows that enslavers made conscious efforts to keep enslaved people from learning valuable skills, indicating they were afraid of the consequences this would lead to. Second, as the story sits in between one about catching fugitives and one about family separation it connects the denial of education to other horrible forms of dehumanization that enslavers enacted upon enslaved. That education denial is placed on the same level as hunting, and family separate proves the importance of literacy and knowledge both to enslavers and enslaved.

Other sources in the archives show the empowerment of education, particularly for women. Many sources about freed black people in the area are connected to Latta University, a school set up by Reverend Morgan Latta for freed black people to get education. Rev. Latta’s choice to set up a school displays his belief (shared by many) that education would be the gateway to opportunity for those manumitted. Although black women were doubly oppessed by their race and gender, Latta’s school provided such opportunity for women who could become students, or even teachers.

One photograph found in The Archive for Documenting the American South shows Mrs. M. K. Smith and Dorothy Funderburk. Smith is labeled as a teacher, and Funderburk as a secretary. Both are wearing fine clothing, and the fact that they are photographed shows the importance of their position within their community. Historically, teachers and those connected to schools would be regarded as more upper class and would be highly respected for their role in passing on important skills like reading and writing. Investigating the role of Latta University and its connection to Mecklenburg county could be an important line of further research.

Screenshot of Photographs of Mrs. M.K. Smith and Dorothy Funderburk found through the Documenting the American South digitized archives.
Photographs of Mrs. M.K. Smith and Dorothy Funderburk found through the Documenting the American South digitized archives: https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/latta/ill13.html.

These sources and more within the archives, accessible to Davidson students, prove the power of education for enslaved people, both through the respect given to those involved in it, and by the lengths enslavers would go to stop it.  As an American historian I have studied the progression of educational equality in the United States from the creation (and continued importance) of HBCUs to the desegregation of schools in the decades after Brown v. Board (yes, it did take decades). That push began early in U.S history with the actions black people, both enslaved and freed, made to gain literacy and other forms of learning. This serves as a reminder that education, even within the academia, can be used as a tool for personal resistance.

AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic – Course Collaboration, Lindsey Jarrell

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!

“Finding and Remembering: Black Women in the Archive”

written by Lindsey Jarrell

Studying Africana provides a deviation from other academic disciplines, it is a place where Blackness and Black experiences are centered, not a footnote on stories of white history and triumph. And yet, even in a discipline more soundly devoted to the lives and history of people of African descent throughout the diaspora, those scholars looking to study Black women still find themselves in a niche field.

Dr. Dennie’s Spring 2019 course Women and Slavery in the Black Atlantic allows students devoted to the study of Black women to spend a semester exploring different systems of slavery and the ways in which Black and white women lived and left records in those systems. Central to this course is our own exploration of the archives to attempt to find women’s voices and gain a deeper understanding of systems of enslavement in the Davidson and Charlotte areas.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has an extensive digital archive collection that is easily accessible to the public. In exploring these digitized records I was drawn to the extensive materials sorted as variations of “Family Papers”. Looking at the Patterson Family Papers, the collection which includes materials from 1761 to 1866, shows the family resided in northern Mecklenburg County where they owned a large plantation near Davidson. Within this collection are other notable Charlotte families who they conducted business with. Looking at the different documents one can see several bills of sale for the Black folx enslaved by the Pattersons and other families.

Screenshot of Digitized Patterson Family Papers found at UNC Charlotte.
Digitized Patterson Family Papers found at UNC Charlotte.

In 1825, 13 year-old Cheany was transferred from being the property of Elizabeth Potts to Edwin Potts. W.L. Davidson witnessed the sale which was for $400. In this document we can find evidence of a small fragment in the life or rather ownership of a young enslaved girl and the white woman who enslaved her. Later in the Patterson Family Papers the last will and testament of Elizabeth Potts can likewise be found. The document is signed and sealed November 30, 1859. Included in this document is which family members her enslaved were to be transferred to. None were freed. The names of the enslaved were not listed in the transcription and could not be  made out in the scan. One of the enslaved was to be sent to Potts’s niece indicating the continuance of female enslavers in the Potts family.

While fragmented these documents can give us insight into the lives of enslaved women as well as white women who participated in the enslavement of Black folx and the managing of plantations as wives, widows, or by themselves. It may take digging to find but by following bills of sale, fugitive slave ads, wills, and more we can find documentation of multiple parts of enslaved people’s lives.

Following the example of scholars like Marisa Fuentes, Saidiya Hartman, and so many more we can take these fragments and attempt to give both voice and acknowledgement to the Black women in the archives who so rarely are remembered or considered. Such work must be mindful to not replicate the trauma of enslaved lives or to be overzealous in making assumptions about lives whose details we will never truly know. But when does with respect and diligence this work aids in creating a fuller understanding of the past which has created the structures of oppression that continue to affect marginalized folx, particularly Black women, today.


AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic – Course Collaboration, Laura Auberry

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!

“The Trial and Sentencing of Mass”

written by Laura Auberry

On Nov. 7th, 1826, the Tarboro Free Press included a short summary of a case tried in the Superior Court. The summary describes the case of a female slave named Mass, who had killed her master Mr. Mulford. In her trial, the only witness on the part of prosecution was a boy, who was the son of Mass. This source describes the boy’s testimony as being “very clear, and very positive.” Mass was found guilty by a jury and was executed on Friday the 27th.

This short source indicates much about the life of an enslaved woman in North Carolina. One of the most prominent abuses that occurred during the life of an enslaved woman was sexual abuse from her enslaver. In the case of Mass, the source does not contain an explicit indication of sexual abuse from Mr. Mulford (the enslaver). However, my questions about the case do indicate a high possibility of sexual abuse having occurred.

The first question I have about this source is how the killing of Mr. Mulford happened. I would consider the possibility that Mass poisoned Mr. Mulford, except the use of the word “killing” steers me away from that possibility. While enslaved women did sometimes poison their enslavers as a form of resistance, poisoning does seem to be an act that has to be premeditated, which would shift the word “killing” to “murdering.” Since the term used in this source is “killing,” it suggests that the death of Mr. Mulford was not premeditated. Though the source later describes the crime as “murder,” this can be attributed to the fact that in 1826, an enslaved black woman could not be raped in the eyes of the law.

Enslaved black women were seen as being promiscuous and as always welcoming sexual relations. Therefore, if black women could not be raped, then the court would not recognize self-defense against rape, causing the crime to only be listed as a murder, even though the source describes it as a “killing.” This reasoning leads me to believe that Mass acted in self-defense in the killing of Mr. Mulford. Mass would not be the only enslaved woman to resist sexual violence from her enslaver through self-defense.

Mass’s likely forced sexual relationship with Mr. Mulford also brings up another question about this source. Who was the son of Mass that testified against her? This source mentions that the son of Mass, was the only witness from the prosecution. This indicates that the killing occurred in the home of Mass, where she and her son likely lived together. There is also a possibility that due to the sexual relationship between Mr. Mulford and Mass, the son of Mass could also be the son of Mr. Mulford. While the source does not indicate a relationship, the boy certainly could have been an unacknowledged son. It is difficult to imagine what this boy faced when he most likely saw the death of his father and perhaps, repeated assaults on his mother.

Screenshot of Tarboro Free Press newspaper landing page on DigitalNC.org.
Tarboro Free Press newspaper landing page on DigitalNC.org.

When reading this source, one wonders if this testimony was forced, and what sort of relationship existed between the mother and son. This source also suggests that the son was the only witness “on the part of the prosecution.” This distinction indicates that there were perhaps more witnesses on the part of Mass’s defense. Personally, I wonder, whether Mass received a defense, and what arguments were made against the prosecution. Perhaps the defense did try to argue that Mass was defending herself and called up witnesses to talk on the sexual violence Mass suffered from Mr. Mulford, or Mass’s character. However, this source will not tell us that information. It only mentions Mass’s son, who told his testimony against his mother “very clear[ly] and positive[ly].”

Mass’s trial displays multiple conflicting thoughts about enslaved women. Enslaved individuals were thought of in 1826 as lacking intelligence, morals, and rational thought. Often the paternalistic attitude towards slavery labeled enslaved individuals as children, who needed the guiding hand of their enslaver. However, as this source indicates, when it came criminal punishment, Mass was considered rational enough to be guilty of killing her enslaver and paying for her crime. Her son was also considered intelligent enough to give a clear testimony and be the only witness of the crime. This contradiction was one of many that existed within the institution of slavery.

Source:

Wil. Rec. Tarboro Free Press. Nov. 7th, 1826. North Carolina Newspapers. Accessed April 19th, 2019. http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073983/1826-11-07/ed-1/seq-3/.

AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic – Course Collaboration, Idalina Pina

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: The Choices of Freedom”

written by Idalina Pina

In the two cases presented before the General Assembly Session in Martin County in 1861, two freed-women sought to bind themselves to slavery. In the first case, the petitioner, Eliza Hassell, is described as a free-woman of color, who requested to acquiesce her freedom to Shepard R. Spruill, a character she describes as a “kind master.” Hassell, as explained by the Court, claims that her conditions under the entitlement of Spruill would change for the better. The petition does not further clarify her previous conditions but does insinuate that a life of slavery would be a better option for Hassell. Similarly, in the second petition introduced to the court the same year, Kissah Trueblood, described also as a freed woman of color, makes the same plea. Her petition follows a similar sentiment as the previous one: Trueblood sought to bind herself to Dr. Ritter to better her circumstances. The script of this petition, however, reveals more about Trueblood and her reasonings, describing her previous life under the “apprenticeship” of other owners as exceeding her current state of “destitute” as a free woman.

Screenshot of the North Carolina Digital Collections page showing the General Assembly Session Records: Eliza Hassell Petition, Jan. 22, 1861.
General Assembly Session Records: Eliza Hassell Petition, Jan. 22, 1861. The document can be viewed on the North Carolina Digital Collections website, shown above.

Both of these cases reveal a couple of interest characteristics of slavery in the mid-19th century. On the one hand, free woman consciously made the choice to bind themselves to perpetual servitude, some under the impression that a slavery would be a better outcome. This rationalization, unfortunately, was not rash; in the South, particularly in North Carolina as seen with these two cases, living conditions for free people of color were not reliable. This quality of life made freed people vulnerable to circumstances such as presented in the cases above. Both Hassell and Trueblood are described as free woman of “color,” a particular characterization by the Court that reveals more about the particular situation of these two women. Although the petition includes that Trueblood was born a free person, it does not mention Hassell’s previous position.

Their “position” in a slave society as freed women is pertinent in understanding some of these cases. As analyzed by numerous authors throughout this course, freed women held different positions in social structures which allowed some form of mobility. Both of these women were at some point free, but because freedom could not provide a means of living for them, slavery became the better choice. This “choice of freedom” is not accessible for others.

The description these women utilize for these men can expose more of the underlying conditions that lead them to make this choice; however, these women could also be using this language to further their agency, which in this case, is binding themselves to slavery because it betters their living situation. In both of these case, the women are presented to have chosen a life of slavery instead of freedom. However, their voices are not heard through the paper, but rather the intentions of the writer are what one can extrapolate from this petition; therefore, making it difficult to deduce their motives.

Works Cited:

General Assembly Session Records: Eliza Hassell Petition, Jan. 22, 1861. http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15012coll8/id/2218/rec/19 .

General Assembly Session Records: Kissah Trueblood Petition, Jan. 3, 1861. http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15012coll8/id/2215/rec/20.

http://digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15012coll8/id/2215/rec/20

AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic – Course Collaboration, Gabrielle Thomas

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!

“Dialectics in the Archive”

written by Gabrielle Thomas

Hegel’s slave/master dialectic deals with two individuals, the slave and the master, that mutually recognize and define each other in status and in being. More so, these groups represent opposing sides of inequality and extremes. This dialectic is present in slavery and has been applied to slave narratives such as Fredrick Douglas. For example, Marissa Fuentes, in Dispossessed Lives, points us towards the dialectic of racialized gender or the “Mistress/Slave Dialectic.” However, other dialectics also functioned during slavery. Hilary Beckles introduces the dialectic relationship between white prosperity and black purgatory within the slave society or white prosperity/black purgatory dialectic in his work The First Black Slave Society.

These dialectics were hardened and institutionalized through slave codes and laws throughout the Caribbean and the United States. In the archival collection, “Documenting the American South,” in the University of North Carolina library, I found one distinct sources that showcase two dialectics: the master/slave dialectic and the white prosperity/black purgatory dialectic.

The first source is a government document from 1831 entitled, “Slaves and Free Persons of Color. An Act Concerning Slaves and Free Persons of Color,” and demonstrates ways in which the slave/master dialectic stayed in place. North Carolina’s use of slaves and its participation in the slave trade has been well documented. In 1715, the first laws for used to control slaves were made. North Carolina, at the time, worked as a slave society. This meant that their socioeconomic formation was entirely dependent on slavery for all its operations, dominant ideology, defining functions, and sustainability. These laws were an instrument to maintain the slave society. This particular document laid out laws that controlled every aspect of the free and enslaved black persons.

Screenshot of the "Documenting the American South" landing page for "North Carolina Slaves and Free Persons of Color. An Act Concerning Slaves and Free Persons of Color."
Landing page for the referenced document, “North Carolina Slaves and Free Persons of Color. An Act Concerning Slaves and Free Persons of Color,” created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1831. The item can be found through “Documenting the American South,” based out of UNC Chapel Hill.

For example, it controlled their labour, freedom, reproduction, and worth. All laws were meant to ensure that the master/slave dialectic was in place. Freed black persons were not allowed to migrate to North Carolina and if they were in North Carolina, they could not leave for more than ninety days. If a freed person broke any laws or codes of conduct they were subject to return to enslavement. Another law remained that if an enslaver wanted to free a person they enslaved, they would have to file a request to the court, give public notice of their intentions, and pay a bond. Any enslaved person found guilty of insurrection or conspiracy “shall be adjudged guilty of a felony and shall suffer death without benefit of clergy (p.5).” Any runaway enslaved persons caught would be hired out from the jails for the state’s profit. Runaways would also be “confined in any jail for the space of twelve months, (pg. 3) otherwise.

The act also uses this as a way to deal with hiring illegally imported slaves. It also enumerated the reward system for slave catchers. The master was the white population and the slave was the black population. This remained true regardless of whether the black person was enslaved or free. Laws are one tool used to maintain this dialectic.

The second source is a newspaper article titled, “More Slavery at the South,” published in the Independent’s 74th issue January 25th, 1912 by an anonymous African American nurse. This source shows the white prosperity/black purgatory dialectic. This source was actually written by a reporter for The Independent. However, the piece is a transcribed interview with an anonymous African American woman. This nurse describes the sexual harassment that most African American nurses and house workers are forced to endure from male employers. She also speaks on the sexual bribery and coercion that occurred.

Snapshot of the landing page A Negro Nurse More Slavery at the South. Source: Documenting the American South, UNC Chapel Hill.
Landing page for A Negro Nurse More Slavery at the South. Source: Documenting the American South, UNC Chapel Hill.

For example, this source sheds light on how women were promised more and nicer clothes for sexual acts. Even though this article is written after emancipation it shows the afterlife or continuation of this dialectic into 1900s’.  The anonymous African American woman complains that she has suckled numerous white women’s children but has never gotten the respect of being called “Ms.” She complains of being looked at as a sex object for white men. She also complains of the dire living, eating, and health situations of the black persons in the South. She further complains of the unfair wages.

Throughout the piece she constantly compares the black living situation to the contrastingly better white living situation in the South. Reading this source illuminates how the theoretical conception of the dialectical relationship, white prosperity/black purgatory, exists in the South around 1900s.  

Works Cited:

North Carolina, Slaves and Free Persons of Color. An Act Concerning Slaves and Free Persons of Color. North Carolina: General Assembly, 1831.
https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/slavesfree/summary.html

A Negro Nurse, More Slavery at the South. From The Independent, 72 (Jan. 25, 1912): 196-200. New York: Published for the proprietors, 1912.https://docsouth.unc.edu/fpn/negnurse/negnurse.html

AFR 329: Women & Slavery in the Black Atlantic – Course Collaboration, Cami Herring

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 Cami Herring

Being able to tie the horrific nature of American slavery to today’s manifestation of mass incarceration is no hard task. It is well known that slavery did not end, it just transformed. It is for this reason we see more of our black and brown men and women being thrown into jail for petty crimes or wrongly charged based off of false accusations. The corrupt criminal justice system manifest itself daily, changing not only the makeup up the prison system, but the individual lives within it as well. The correlation between recidivism (the tendency of a convicted person to reoffend) and the poor treatment of “criminals” post-release is extremely high specifically for black women in the United States according to a Prison Policy Initiative study. In no way, however, do I strive to suggest that these women seek to be behind bars once again, but rather factors that work against formerly incarcerated people (specifically women) such as housing or poor living conditions keep them within this cycle. Freeing people from jail does not negate the possibility of returning.

Screen capture of the Prison Policy Initiative homepage.
The Prison Policy Initiative homepage.

Through my archival research, similar themes arose based off of North Carolina archival source I found. The source is from 1867 from an assumed former slave who contracted an agreement to work for a woman named Margaret Torrance for two years on the Cedar Grove Plantation in North Carolina. In it, you can find information about what sort of provisions, shelter, and “care” she will be given under the new bondage of this woman. She states “I, Vina do solemnly bind myself and my four children […] to do anything that she wants me to do.” In it she also hints that she is primarily doing this for her children so they will have sufficient resources for survival, specifically clothing. Although the contract is only for two years, as we know, bondage would often extend for much longer based off of changing circumstances within the contractual agreement. This could be anything from a minor breach in the agreement to simply being uninformed about exactly what they were agreeing to. Either way, it was entirely dependant on what the white person felt to enforce. This means Vina was likely enslaved past these two years. Regardless, the cycle was never broken as a result of the dependency black people were forced to have on whites due to being subdued physically, emotionally, and intellectually for so many years before abolition. Because of this, we see a woman asking to be enslaved, not because she wanted to subject herself to this, but because it was a means of survival. While this source does not provide much more than a committed statement to live at the calling of her enslaver, the implications of it reach into ideology today. Black people don’t want to be incarcerated, but often times the odds are stacked so far against them, that it becomes the one of the only options.

This is a sentiment that is often considered unfathomable to many modern day white Americans as they often attempt to equate their white “freedom” to black freedom. They think “if black people wanted to be treated with equality they should stay out of prisons.” Trust me, I don’t believe the 46,000 youth incarcerated annually want to be behind bars. But, when surrounding living conditions make it more realistic for you to survive in prison than in your own community, it can happen. There has been a significant difference in equity between black and white people. Because of this, freedom for whites was (and continues to be) drastically different to “freedom” of blacks.  

In the 1800s, mere physical freedom did not equate to the mental and emotional freedom whites always had to become educated or learn social literacy to be successful in a world not confined within the fences of a plantation. Freedom of the body is not enough. Vita’s freedom of her body was not enough. She was not equipped to survive in a world that had been functioning without her public existence for so long, and she had never had to opportunity to learn how to do so. Freedom from bondge does not suddenly mean you can be an equal part of society, there is some major catching up that must be done.

This is something that we take for granted and has skewed the way many people (specifically white) view black people in terms of their mere status to be without bondage in America. Just because the chains come off, whether it is through slavery or incarceration, it is senseless to believe that is where the work can end. Similar to how Reconstruction era programs attempted to incorporate formerly enslaved people into society, significant strides are needed to ameliorate programs for previously convicted people so as to break one part of the cycle of incarceration.

Work Cited

“New Report, Nowhere to Go, breaks down the housing crisis among formerly incarcerated people.” Prison Policy Initiative, August, 2018.

Sawyer, Wendy and Peter Wagner. “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2019,” Prison Policy Initiative, March, 2019.

“Vina’s Contract” J. Murrey Atkins Library Digital Collections, January, 1867.

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.

Guest Blogger: Bob Denham ’61 In memory of Leland M. Park ’63

“TERSE VERSE FOR LELAND, RETIRING FROM THE E.H. LITTLE LIBRARY, DAVIDSON COLLEGE”

We bid adieu
With thanks to you
For making Little big.

Your tenure’s been
To now from then
A grand and noble gig.

You said, “I read,
Therefore I need
[Apologies Descartes]

A lot more cash
For books to stash
If we’re to stand apart.”

Your firm belief,
As Little’s chief:
The book is learning’s heart.

O Leland Park,
You’ve left your mark
By making Little large.

That all should read,
That was your creed.
And your director’s charge:

If they erase
Books’ central place,
Circumference won’t enlarge.

Your stacks expand.
Six hundred grand,
Plus lots of other perks,

Like maps and scores
And data doors
And, as for tools, “RefWorks.”

As Little’s czar
You set the bar
As high as Chambers’ dome,

And thus you made
An A plus grade:
Tome after tome and tome.

We you salute
For your repute.
Now Little’s number one.

You filled the stacks––
Few gaps or cracks––
We say, O Park, well done!

Now your car’s Parked
And you’ve embarked
On your retirement years,

We quaff a stein
With thumbs up sign––
Hip, hip, hooray. Three cheers.

    ––Bob Denham ’61 

Guest Blogger: Dahlia Krutkovich, “Petition for Jewish Studies at Davidson College”

Hey everyone,

A group of students has been organizing to create an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program at Davidson. This comes as part of a broader response to the events of last semester (the Pittsburgh shooting, “Hitler did nothing wrong,” and the neo-Nazis on campus).

This wouldn’t be possible without the work of students who came before us. We acknowledge and admire those who fought for Africana and GSS at Davidson and those continuing to advocate for Asian-American Studies, Indigenous Studies, and other initiatives that will ultimately make Davidson a place more people can call their own.

We hope that you’ll sign on, but we also want to answer your questions in person. Members of the working group will be at the tables by the fireplace in the Union this Monday to Friday from 11 to 3. This petition and its signatories will serve as proof that the Davidson community sees this as an urgent need. Talk to your friends, professors, alum friends and parents, etc. Thank you for your support.

Petition for Jewish Studies at Davidson College

1/27/19

To the Davidson College community:

The unmasking of Davidson students with neo-Nazi affiliation in November 2018 has left many students to wonder about Davidson’s commitment to its curricular and social values. We believe the creation of a Jewish Studies program at Davidson is crucial to the College’s wellbeing.

This is not the first time the College’s commitment to religious inclusion and academic integrity has been called into question. Less than 50 years ago, Davidson refused to hire a Jewish professor because he denounced a tenure policy that required professors to promote Christianity on campus (1). In response to student outrage and national attention, the first Jewish professor in Davidson history was hired two years later, in 1979 (2).

The Anti-Defamation League reports an 89% increase in anti-Semitic incidents on American college campuses between 2016 and 2017 (3). Over the same period of time, FBI Hate Crime Statistics Report show a 37% increase in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide (4).

Just a few months ago, we confronted anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism on our own campus. Though our push for Jewish Studies is a response to homegrown white supremacy, it is also informed by conversations Jewish students had following the exposure of the radicalized students’ twitter feeds. Suddenly, Jewish students were burdened with explaining everything from the differences between Reform and Hasidic Judaism to the concept of conditional whiteness, while also processing neo-Nazism so close to home. Even though non-Jewish students were willing and eager to learn about Jewish identities, it is unacceptable that these conversations were catalyzed only by tweets including “gas the kikes” and “I don’t actually give a ____ about Jews getting shot up” (5).

Although Davidson already offers some Jewish Studies courses, two or three classes a semester is not enough; a more complete curricular program in Jewish Studies would humanize and demystify Jewish culture, history, and identity. The student authors of this petition are advocating an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program, which would span at least three disciplines and include at least one tenure-track position devoted to the study of Jewishness, be it through Religious Studies, History, Political Science, Anthropology, Sociology, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and/or Literary Studies. We envision Jewish Studies courses as dynamic, enriching spaces where students can more deeply engage with their academic pursuits.

Of the twenty institutions Davidson cites as its peers, nine have interdisciplinary or formal Jewish Studies departments, while eight others have access to programs or offer a significant number of courses devoted to a more expansive study of Jewish identity (6). If Davidson wants to maintain its status as a leader among other top colleges and continue to expand beyond its origins as a regional institution, adding a Jewish Studies program must become an immediate priority.

As an institution of higher learning that claims to serve as a “place where those who live, work, and study see differences as an opportunity to learn about themselves,” we have a responsibility to learn from our differences, engage with complicated topics, and combat ignorance with education (7). We hope the foundation of an interdisciplinary Jewish Studies program will move Davidson towards a greater, more inclusive understanding of Jewishness. Community support is vital to our success, so we implore those of you invested in the future of Davidson to show solidarity.

To demonstrate your support, sign your name below.

Sincerely,

The Student Working Group for Jewish Studies

References:

1. http://library.davidson.edu/archives/davidsonian/PDFs/19770422.pdf
2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1977/04/25/christian-nc-college-rebu
ffs-jew/bff9b129-00d3-499e-8978-5da6a9b3cfb0/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.9ac
82f27a402; http://davidsonjournal.davidson.edu/2010/03/another-news-story/
3. https://www.adl.org/media/11174/download
4. https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2016/tables/table-1;
https://ucr.fbi.gov/hate-crime/2017/topic-pages/tables/table-1.xls
5. https://twitter.com/WorkersCarolina/status/1060331304741453824?s=20
6. https://www.davidson.edu/offices/institutional-research/peer-institutions
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1mnuIWvvhtnU_A4ubsWBnjcclX-H2
KjWRak37valaPFc/edit?usp=sharing
7. https://www.davidson.edu/admission-and-financial-aid/diversity