This project has grown out of a need to address institutional history and reframe, recover and gain narratives from traditionally underrepresented groups—particularly focusing on the absence of African-American histories at Washington and Lee (W&L). During the summer of 2018, W&L was awarded an Associated Colleges of the South (ACS) grant which licensed multiple institutions to conduct oral history interviews on the history of integration at their university’s which would in its second phase be gathered together on a multi-institutional digital archive. Initially, the project required a collection from individuals who appeared to have the best general understanding of the role that race played at W&L during this time and who would be willing to give a genuine reflection on this period of time. W&L’s period of integration began while it was still an all-male university in 1966 when an African-American undergraduate student, Dennis Haston, matriculated as a first year. In 1985, six African-American women entered into the first coeducational undergraduate class, marking another form of integration at W&L.
The summer after my first year at Washington and Lee, I was awarded the opportunity to work with Professor Ted DeLaney in the History Department as a student researcher. My tasks included spending the summer in Special Collections searching through papers and news articles that mentioned any instance of the University’s relationship to African-Americans. My research partner and I found documents that had never been publicized, adding them to the university’s timeline for the History of African-Americans at Washington and Lee. After my third year at W&L, I joined Professor Sydney Bufkin who knew about my interest in the subject and my time in Special Collections. During the summer of 2018, my lens was narrowed down to the period of integration and my quest for materials involved searching for individuals who were witnesses at Washington and Lee during this period. Specifically, I became more interested in obtaining the interviews of individuals who were seldom found in our university’s archival materials, focusing less on the white male perspective and more on the African-American perspective. Furthermore, due to the lack of African-American/Black women documented in Special Collections, it became my goal to give these women in particular a platform from which their voices would be documented. After the summer of 2018, I was awarded a Digital Humanities Fellowship for the 2018-2019 school year, giving me the opportunity to see some of the goals that I’d set through. During the summer of 2019, I will independently collect interviews and items and analyze them on the website.
During my Digital Scholarship class in the winter semester of 2018-2019 school year, my goal was to transfer the oral histories that I’d collected from the beginning of the Summer of 2018 to Winter Term 2019 onto a digital site. Those interviews included; Willard Dumas ‘91, Stephanie Coleman ‘89, Ted DeLaney ‘85, Marquita Dunn and Edwin Walker, both retired university employees. Additionally, during the occurrence of the biyearly Black Alumni Reunion, I gathered more names of individuals interested in telling their stories. Additionally during the May class reunions, I collected the interviews of William Thornton '88, Robert Ford '77 and Maurice "Moe" Cole '94. This is the beginning of what I hope W&L continues to maintain, giving student scholars a chance to dig into their institutional history in meaningful ways. W&L’s Special Collections houses large gaps and silences that can be filled in by living individuals and witnesses to both integration and co-education. Under the leadership of Lynn Rainville, the Director of Institutional History, I hope that this project will be on the forefront of our community's mind as W&L continues to come to terms with our history and realizes that important pieces and narratives have been missing.
This site is a digital archive designed with the support of the Digital Scholarship class taught at Washington and Lee University by Professors Sydney Bufkin and MacKenzie Brooks. MaKayla Lorick '19 (Digital Humanities Fellow) worked to research and design the site and also created the logo. This site is proudly powered by the open source software package Omeka.