I was responsible for researching WW2 in my group. The most significant information I found was when I visited the Archives and went through the Nancy Thompson Letter Collection. This collection was started by Nancy Thompson and the purpose of it was to keep in contact with soldiers who had connections to the University. Later the letters were all put together and can now be found in the archives. The collections is massive. Although there were many letters in the collection, most of the entries were written by white soldiers. However, there was one black soldier I was able to find. Erin informed me that although there were many other black soldiers in the war that had relations with the University, only one wrote back. His name was Adelbert Berry. Before the war he was a student at Kean but then was drafted. After the war he returned to Kean where I believe he graduated. Berry was extremely active on campus. He took part in many school functions including school dances. He is also on the cover of an issue of the school’s news paper, “The Reflector”. In another article a poem by Berry can be found. During his service he traveled all around the globe. He went to Arizona, Fort Dix and Morocco. He was even able to move up in the ranks of the military. In his early letters he ends them with “sincerely Dell Berry”. Later letters he writes “sincerely Pvt. Dell Berry.
We have been discussing these past two weeks the research process that we have all been experiencing. We are finding information but very little, when we open a window into the information doors are being closed. I have been lucky that my topic at Liberty Hall and the early Kean family is recently being highlighted by professors but I’m still finding very little information. I am not claiming that we are being actively turned away, but considering this has always been a touchy subject I feel that the documents we need to gather our information is just not there for us.
I know a lot of documents from the past have not even been cataloged yet. I am hoping that us as a class coming and asking for this information is going to help get staff and interns to find it and make it available to future students. However our connection to the archives has gone above and beyond to help our class, it is exciting that she is all for this project and helping us find our information. This is my opinion so far on our class presentations of where we are in our individual research process.
My experience as I mentioned earlier is easy accessible right now, however I am still finding some road blocks myself. Not because of anyone in particular but just due to the fact that there are no available answers to my questions. I have found out about Susan Livingston Kean’s family background in slave trading, that the Kean family did not release their slaves out of the kindness of their hearts. It is all very muddled. I know John Kean’s correspondences have played a major part in my research process. I had all this information on slaves he had a fondness for and mentioned often. Then I come to find out John Kean never even lived in Liberty Hall.
So I must scrap what I have found and dive more into Susan Livingston Kean. I know she was an independent woman for the time period she lived in and I know slavery was one of the things that helped her maintain her independence from her second husband. I now know she moved into the property in 1811, seven years after New Jersey set their laws on abolishing slavery. I was so focused on John Kean that I completely over looked Susan. Let the research process start again.
Over the past month the research I’ve done solely on my own has unfortunately been quite inconclusive or otherwise leading me to dead ends. It would seem that, at least to that although there are accurate records of students who have attended Kean University, I simply can’t just click their name and get information about their nationality and ethnicity, I can at least take a guess at what it might be, but that method is largely inaccurate on many levels particularly when it comes to native African surnames.
With that being said, the broader aspect of my research (which would be finding notable black alumni who have attended Kean University (or it’s previous incarnation of Newark State College) has been slightly more fruitful. Although not an Alumni of the college, Vera King Farris was indeed a notable African – American at Kean University who had a the distinction of being the first African American Female president of a New Jersey University, her term of service being held at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
I have not given up however. I had the great privilege of hearing a guest lecture from Dr. James Conyers, a professor of Africana Studies at Kean University at the special meeting of the Beta Kappa Psi Black and Latino Fraternity and the Omega Phi Chi Black and Latina Sorority here at Kean and I plan on doing an extensive interview with him and try to acquire as much knowledge as I can concerning his observations and thoughts on the relationship between African American Students at Kean and 1st generation African Students. I also managed to get a few short but detailed interviews with several members of the Fraternity and I plan on conducting more in the coming weeks. I have a strong feeling that this endeavor will prove to be very beneficial for the tour when it is completed.
Monday, March 28 2016
“I don’t really have a distinct feeling as to how my research is going. On one hand, I’m getting some really cool and interesting information, but on the other, I’m not really getting the answer to what I am looking for in regards to the role the black community at Kean played in Student government. I feel as though whenever the topic of race is being discussed, the general assumption is that it has to be negative. It’s like an eerie aura that brings back dark memories of the past saturates the atmosphere. Most of my research was done via one on one interviews, and so far they haven’t been of too much help. I get the strange impression that people are withholding information; It’s either that, or they sincerely don’t have answers.The little information that I did manage to obtain is quite enlightening, and ironically enough, not negative at all. For instance, I had know idea that in today’s Student Government nearly all the student board members are black, but when they first started out back in 1941 most of the members were white. This is a sign of improvement for the black community here at Kean and is surely uplifting. I truly want to tell a good story for this tour, but, if what I come up with isn’t filled with a bunch a drama and controversy, well, that is fine by me. I strongly believe that the topic of black lives shouldn’t always be about racial injustice that creates tension among the general public, but should also be about our accomplishments, and growth. Anyways, still have a lot of work to be done. Until next time”!
Ever since I was young I never understood why people were racist and had problems with others who don’t exactly look like them. The color of someone’s skin should not define who that person is and what they stand for. With this project I am looking forward to learning how the class puts all of its parts together in order to make this a success. The incident that occurred last semester shows that there is still a problem with race and its not only the older generations but people of the younger generation also. I hope with this tour that we are going to give it sheds light on the history of African-Ameericans at the schools and helps those who do not understand not only the importance of African-Americans but sheds light on how we all are equal.
So far the research I have done has been somewhat discouraging. My group is in charge of finding the history about the dorms and student government. As stated by my other classmates my group as well has delegated responsibilities for each section, mine being the dorms. The first thing that came to my mind was going through the yearbooks provided to us through the archive and Kean website to see if I could find any information about the dorms through those resources, but I have yet to go through them to the extent that is needed. I started by going to the dorms and speaking with Jennifer Van Dyk who runs the dorms at Kean. I originally went to her to see if there was any sort of record of who might have been an RA or RD over the years to, which I was disappointed to find that there is no such record. The meeting was not a total disappointment as she was able to give me a list of people around campus that might be able to further help me in my research. The second person I spoke with was Stella Maher who is in charge of Alumni relations. This meeting went a little bit better as she informed me that she could put me in direct contact with former students that are apart of the Alumni Association, which gave me a brighter outlook on how this project will unfold. The next step in finding out a broader history of how the dorms were throughout the years is to dig through the yearbooks and try to get in contact with former students which I look forward to doing in the upcoming weeks.
To be honest I am really excited about the Tour my classmates and I will be responsible for creating. Throughout my college career here at Kean I have always been exposed to the University’s rich history leading back to revolutionary times. However, most people including myself have only seen one perspective of that history. That is the perspective of the Kean family which was a family that was extremely wealthy, successful and most importantly, white. The idea of this tour is to explore ideas and concepts about the University’s history that aren’t so well known or possibly not known. This is exciting for me because I will be a part of something that has never been done before at Kean and it will hopefully make a significant mark on campus.
In terms of my research, I am grouped with Alix, Marco and Shalanda. Like Shalanda said earlier in the blog, we decided to break the work up evenly amongst the four of us. I am responsible for researching all that I can about the Nancy Thompson Letter Collection. From what I have learned so far about it, the collection is essentially a huge selection of letters all dating back to WW2. Nancy Thompson was able to write to as well as receive letters from our brave men and women fighting in the war. I have not gotten to look through the collection yet but I am eager to do so. I look forward to finding out all that the collection has to offer including any details pertaining to the war as well as any significance the letters have to our class tour as well.