The Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History was created in 2015 by Rutgers University–New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards and charged with seeking out the untold story of disadvantaged populations in the university’s history and recommending how Rutgers can best acknowledge their influence. Chaired by Deborah Gray White, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History, the committee delivered its recommendations in November 2016. Dr. White presented the recommendations at the Chancellor’s Scarlet and Black event on November 18, 2016.
Recommendations of the committee:
- Place historical markers around campus to help disseminate some of the material in Scarlet and Black. These markers should commemorate people such as Will, the slave who helped build Old Queens, and Sojourner Truth, whose parents were owned by the Hardenberghs. Historical markers should also be prominently placed in some of the buildings named after Rutgers leaders who owned slaves, were involved in the slave trade and race-making in the United States. These markers should give some of the history of the founder’s connection to slavery, the slave trade, and African Americans.
- Name the space in front of Old Queens “Will’s Way,” to commemorate the work of all African Americans who helped build Rutgers.
- Establish Rutgers physical and virtual tours, which should incorporate as much of the material in Scarlet and Black as possible. The information should be incorporated into tours conducted by the Rutgers admissions office, Visitor Center, and online media. A separate “Back in Black Tour” should be developed for high school and other groups seeking to get more in-depth information. The title “Back in Black” was suggested by undergraduate students who were polled to ascertain their ideas.
- Create a website with digital copies of important archival documents and a space for the digital version of the walking tours in order to make the committee’s findings widely available.
- Establish retention scholarships. Administered by the Paul Robeson Cultural Center, these scholarships should aim to increase the graduation rates of “at risk” students. Scholarships only begin to address some of the legacy issues raised by the enslavement of Blacks in New Jersey and the subsequent discrimination that prevented African Americans from attending Rutgers.
- Continue the research and publish the next volume of Scarlet and Black. The research should move forward in time through the 19th and 20th centuries bringing in the history of the Camden and Newark campuses and their experience with African and Native American students. The time period should include the modern civil rights movement.
- Designate postdoc and graduate fellowships for the research connected with the Scarlet and Black project.
- Institutionalize the Scarlet and Black project and provide for its proper administration.
- Establish an exchange program with the Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. The program can involve students but should also involve scholarly collaboration.
- Provide funds for the annual New Jersey Native American folk festival so that the land lost by Native Americans can be properly commemorated.
- Name some of the new buildings after contemporary, or historically prominent, African Americans and Native Americans.
- Join the Universities Studying Slavery consortium. Established in 2015 to “address both historical and contemporary issues dealing with race and inequality in higher education and in university communities as well as the complicated legacies of slavery in modern American society,” this consortium hosts semi-annual meetings to “discuss strategies, collaborate on research, and learn from one another.” Among its members are: the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Georgetown University, and the University of North Carolina.
- Commission an artist to create a proper art form to memorialize the dispossessed and enslaved.
- Establish open forums at which students can discuss the subjects raised by historical and contemporary issues involving race and Rutgers. These forums should be sponsored by campus student groups.
- Make a diversity course a requirement of the core curriculum.
Scarlet and Black–On the Uses of History:
Below you can view and download the Epilogue to Scarlet and Black, Volume 1, written by Jomaira Salas Pujols on behalf of the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History, which provides more insight about the committee’s recommendations.