Black student life at Kean through the years

As a class, this project will be a challenge but from this challenge will come a much needed narrative on how student life has been for Blacks throughout the history of the university we all attend. The reward at the end of this project will be showing current students and other people who are interested that Black students have and always will be a big contributing factor to life at Kean. With help from the archives this project will show the impact Black students have made at the university and continue to make.

Dorm life is one of the areas that my group will be focusing on, through research I hope to get into contact with some former students that lived on campus, possibly some Resident Advisors, to get their take on how race relations were during their time at Kean. This also goes for current students to give a broad picture of how things have changed over the years. Along with dorm life, community and social cohesion is another topic that will be explored possibly showing how the university effected the surrounding areas through the years. Lastly, student government is yet another topic for research and should be interesting to see how involved Black students were throughout the history of Kean in terms of issues addressed by the student leaders. Through research and talking with people I am excited to learn about the student aspects throughout the history of Kean, and how it relates to the Black experience at the university.


What is The BlacKeaning ?

The BlacKeaning Tour at Kean University is going to be a tour that is going to explore the contributes and the trails and tribulation that Afrcian Americans experience here at Kean University. In this tour you will see the history of African American students this tour we show the administration problems and the exposed conversational issues of black students. From this tour you’re going to be able to experience all aspect of black lives here at Kean. From the faculty to the students this tour is going to give others a new perspective of minorities at Kean.  

This tour came to be developed by a group of students who are interested in black lives here at Kean. The first steps of creating this tour was that we had to come up with a creative but also intriguing name that would capture the audience and broadcast what this tour is about. Hence the name BlacKeaning came to be we are going to shed light on the on the issues that Kean black students had to face while attuning this school. Some of the issues that we are going to bring up on this tour may make some people uncomfortable but these are real issues that need to address. I am very happy that this tour is going to happen because too many issues are overlooked and many people are not even aware of these things. . BlacKeaning is going to be great part of Kean history and I can’t wait for others to experience this tour when BlacKeaning is completely finished.

How do you start a project that sheds light onto a shady mysterious past?

To me this project seemed like a brilliant idea. It’s one thing to love history and read about it, but to create something like this that may help educate others is a dream come true. To have students doing research on their own campus to find things out about lives that have walked the very grounds they walk on is eye opening. I know this won’t be a happy tour all the time, I’m sure like the other schools before us our content won’t always be the positive spin we want to have. But going into the past is not always pleasant. We as a class want to find out what the lives of the black community were like on our campus. But we won’t just stop there, our campus has had many different homes which we will also discuss in our tour. We want to know how the black lives, past, present and future, have and will shape the Kean life on our campus.

The first step to creating our tour was to come up with a great name that will draw students in, with this The BlacKeaning was brought to life. We want to illuminate black lives at Kean, past, present, and future. After we got our name and context down the next step in our process was to find out where, who, what and why. In this part we have chosen what each student was interested in and split into our groups. There is a lot of subject matter we must all cover and its best if we all have a group to help us bounce ideas off of. Knowing we can only have just a few minutes to talk about each subject is going to be the tough part.

My group has Liberty Hall, which is the original house on campus that the Kean family resided in since the late 1700’s until 1995. While this site is full of history and black history, on our tour we met many dead ends to our questions, which means we will have to dive into the archives to find what we need. I know the one story I was interested in finding out more about was an enslaved woman who had testified on behalf of her mistress in a divorce trial. I want to know more about her, what happened to her after the trial and her daily life. Knowing we have limited time on this section that will be the start of our tour since this was the start of black lives on our campus I’m weary of whether or not her story will be told or should we cover the basics of enslaved lives in the house.

The next point of discussion in my tour is that of our Newark campus. The questions I need to find answers for are: Was the Newark riots a big reason why we moved our campus back to Union? When did we move to Newark? Were black students enrolled at the time? Did any of the students participate in the riots? What happened to those students? What were parent’s reactions? How did staff handle everything? I am hoping that since this was in 1967 finding the information I need will not be as hard as the Liberty Hall research.

My group’s final stop will be at our own Human Rights Institute. I was shocked to learn that we did not have this building till 2010 and that the group wasn’t even having meetings until 2008. I feel that this should have been something that was a part of our campus much early on. We pride ourselves on being such a diverse school, and to not have something like this on our campus till recently was disturbing. I want to find out what caused them to start this group? What are their goals? Does it help any students? What is their main reasons for having this? Who were the founders?

We have a lot to look into for just three locations, and we need to decide; what is the important parts to high light on our tour? It’s always good to have the additional information for questions that might be asked on a tour. Those are also things we need to look into and know. I know when I go on tours places and they don’t have answers for me it is a bit of a disappointment. We want this project to outlast our semester working on it, we want future students, current students and residents to take our tour and learn about our history, and even if it might not paint things in the light we hoped it would. We want to know and share what black lives on campus were like and what the future holds for the new ones.

A Creation for a Lifetime

This tour will be about a group of people who have came along way from oppression to progressing. This event will go to the primary resources into to enrich the journey. We will see letters, newspapers and reports in which will help us gain a more of a fuller understanding of what specific set of students endured at the time of American historical events and functions. Giving this subject a new illumination like never before, we will now learn a past only one could understand through the eye witnesses of these historical events. Through the good and the bad, the Black community managed to succeed past their current typical expectation.

This tour will focus an 1 on 1 interviews to show live interaction with the community. Live interaction must play a role, therefore the tour will focus on images also to bring a sense of feeling to what must be depicted of the people. The transition form the Teachers College of New Jersey in 1855 to Kean University will show us the time line of success Blacks had on their campus community and the obstacle that laid before them. Letters, news report and much more with equals the mind and should of the Back community here at Kean. The archives at the school will be perfect for the research. Get ready, because a lot of interesting and probably frequent questions will be discussed about the failure and accomplishments within the Black community at Kean University.


Controversy and Objectivity in the realm of historical Research and Presentation

Regarding my experiences in my research to delve into the history of African-American life and experiences at Kean University and the lands which it occupies, it would be dishonest of me to say that it was particularly exhilarating, as much of this research was conducted electronically. Everything I have come across has undoubtedly been also researched my classmates, as well as hundreds of Kean Alumni before me.

That being said, I stumbled across an interesting, yet extremely provocative video recording of a speech given by the late Khalid Abdul Muhammad in 1993 at the University, when it was known as Kean College. For those who are unacquainted with him and his work; Muhammad was a Black Nationalist associated with the Nation of Islam who was well-known for his fiery speeches and diatribes against various social groups, most notably Whites and Jews. Needless to say I was quite shocked when I discovered that he had actually given a speech at Kean University, and I immediately began to wonder how many more in attendance at Kean were influenced by his teachings. Inevitably, I began to wonder if such an event would, could, or should fit into a potential tour on the history of Black Life or African-Americans at Kean.

Of course, such an inclusion would be a controversial proposition that could generate quite a lot of buzz around the school campus. This is not unexpected. But I believe that as historians objectivity and impartiality are two of those most important factors into every bit of research and the resulting presentations of the findings that are the result thereof. Of course, there will be detractors who will accuse those in favor of the documentation of Muhammad’s speech in the tour of trying to cast a negative light on Black Life at Kean University. In response to these critics, it would be most pertinent to present the fact that Muhammad’s parent organization the NOI and its leader at the time (and present) Louis Farrakhan sharply denounced his speech and later ejected him from membership within the organization.

Essentially, what I am proposing is a chance to present facts, regardless of their unpleasantness to the participants of the tour. Nothing more, nothing less. I realize that my position might stir up controversy , but I will stand by it regardless of any criticism I might receive.

I am Not Black, You are Not White.

(Please watch this empowering video first)


Kean University is filled with a rich history, while it has boasted several names and locations over the years since it was founded in 1855, some practices of the world still remain.  Diversity between race and culture has grown rapidly throughout our halls over the years and it is important to remember that “We are Kean”.

When Martin Luther King Jr. came to Kean he had a message not just for faculty, staff, and students, but for the world.  He wanted to convey a message for the now and future to observe how his leadership in non-violent protests against racism could help shape America toward a better tomorrow.  One of the many important points I took away from Dr. Kings words that day were: “…we achieved so much at this university but he would also say to us that the job is not done and [to] keep moving; and we have and we will do much more as time goes on,” said President Farahi.

Indeed the job is not done here at Kean and that is why I’m proud we will be providing a digital/walking tour of the campus with a focus on historical and non-historical black students, their trials and tribulations.  The BlacKeaning at Kean will highlight past accomplishments and failures in how we diversify our school from others, while highlighting our black community here on campus and in the past.

Kean honors Dr. King with a statue of his facial profile just outside the Nancy Thompson Library, front corner where the Garden is located outside along the Human Rights wing of the building.  In the past students have been encouraged to take “selfies” with the statue and post those to  accounts to share awareness of Dr. Kings message.  I’d like to encourage the same to our class to take a selfie,  posting  it on our blog or twitter feeds, and possibly use this location in our digital/walking tour to highlight.  I hope this helps us all become more inspired for this project that will serve as corner stone of Kean for years to come.



Introducing — The BlacKeaning

This semester, as part of a Kean University seminar on African American history, we are working to develop a public place-based tour of the history of black life at Kean.

This blog will tell the story of that development process.

Our project, inspired by Black at Bryn Mawr at Bryn Mawr College and the University of North Carolina’s Black and Blue tour, seeks document the long history of black lives and experiences at the university and on its grounds. Through this work, we aim to develop a new collective memory about the university’s institutional experience of race and race relations throughout the last three centuries.

We invite you to follow along as we reflect on our own efforts to collect, process, and present these stories. And if you’d like to get involved, leave us a comment!