The Duke Endowment (or TDE) is a charitable trust, and upon its formation in 1924, four institutions of higher education were named as ongoing beneficiaries: Davidson College, Furman University, Johnson C. Smith University, and Trinity College—which was almost immediately renamed Duke University. These four schools vary greatly in size, student body, and academic focus, but we have the shared bond of the Duke Endowment to connect us. For some years, the four libraries of these schools have been given a modest amount of funding to undertake mutually beneficial projects. At times it has been challenging to find a project that suits the four very different libraries.
The goal of The Duke Endowment Libraries is to embark on a collaborative project that would allow institutions to engage in archival research, while being responsive to the needs and resources of each institution. As part of the game plan, each school would hire an archivist or historian to do work related to institutional histories and race, and to engage the campus community with that work. Three of our schools are HWI's or Historically White Institutions, and Johnson C. Smith is HBCU--Historically Black College or University. Although this multi-institutional project collaboration would not present a one-size-fits-all approach, the issues at hand—sharing difficult histories, connecting with communities on campus and off, and using technology to facilitate research and outreach—were very much in common.
Given the growing commitment of colleges and universities to acknowledge and critically examine institutional legacies of enslavement and systemic racism, archival researchers have begun the important process of understanding how these legacies impact universities and shape our efforts to advance intergenerational justice. Our TDEL 2021-2022 cohort, which was formed in the second half of 2021, has discussed approaches to conducting archival research on institutional racial histories and to community-building.
This guide provides an introduction to the activities conducted by the cohort, the progress they have made, and future plans for the incoming year. As you navigate through these pages, you will learn about Davidson College's overhaul of a digital archival project on the Black community within Davidson, efforts at Duke to uncover its institutional connections with slavery, Johnson C. Smith's project to explore Black neighborhoods around the university destroyed by urban renewal, and Furman's work to conduct a DEI audit of its digital collections and finding aids. While each of our projects is very different, we have found community and also a number of surprising alignments among our activities.
--Val Gillispie, Duke University