We open this week using Jackie Royster’s and Jean Williams’s 1999 article for College Composition and Communication, “History in the Spaces Left: African American Presence and Narratives of Composition Studies”, to bind together the 19th century (last week’s reading) with the 20th century (next week’s reading). In particular, Royster and Williams remind us that to understand the contemporary presence of African American students and African American contributions to composition-rhetoric studies, we must begin with the 19th century. In that spirit, they devote a significant part of their article to the work and history of HBCUs which have invented and maintained the record of educating African Americans in postsecondary institutions in the United States. The masking of the work of HBCUs is, therefore, one of the (many) mechanisms that a broader understanding of the history of the field has been thwarted.
With Royster and Williams as inspiration, I would like to introduce the class to the HBCU Library Alliance Digital Collection. Here is the introduction from the website:
A Digital Collection Celebrating the Founding of the Historically Black College and University is a collection of primary resources from HBCU libraries and archives. It includes several thousand scanned pages and represents HBCU libraries first collaborative effort to make a historic collection digitally available. Collections are contributed from member libraries of the Historically Black College and University Library Alliance.
The collection includes photographs, university correspondence, manuscripts, images of campus buildings, alumni letters, memorabilia, and programs from campus events.
These images present HBCUs as cultural, social, and political institutions from the early 1800s until today.
Here is Ira Revels (the first speaker) introducing the Digital Collection on a panel at Cornell University called “A Brief History of Black Education in America.”
This digital collection could very well support original research if you choose to incorporate this history in your final research project of the class, a history that is still not adequately represented in the field.