Research is the bread and butter of any historian and many other disciplines: Sometimes you hit it big, other times you hit a wall of nothing. In my quest to find some information about the history about Kean University move from Newark to Union, I first came in contact with Erin C. Alghandoor, our school Archivist, to find out more information about anything for the move. The information that she was able to provide for me was fun to read: it had the making of a really good drama. Those papers were not what I was looking for though. My main concern was why the school had to move from Newark to Union and some of my research shed some light on the subject.
If I were to look at it from the time, as World War II just recently ended, it would have actually made sense because there was an influx of new students and their old facilities at Newark would not be able to host that many. From what I found, just by size alone, the amount of space that was gain from the Kean family was huge. What I found interesting from my research is the fact that Eugene Wilkins did not want to have the Campus at Montclair, citing that the location would actually be a negative in getting students to be teachers. Location is always going to be an important factor in what facilities you are able to bring to your student population as it can readily affect the kind of gender and ethnic background within your school. It should be noted that many of the earlier yearbooks were mostly white women and it would be hard to find a black student within the year book; this is not to say they are not there, they weren’t as plentiful.
Another interesting letter that I found in my research was a letter from Wilkins to MR. E.J. Grassman. Wilkins stress two points in that letter which was: a quick construction of the school and was trying to decide where the campus would have been located. Some of the location that were found were: Short Hills, Westfield, Summit, Livingston, Cranford, Hillside, and Union. To top all of that off, the area needed to be at least 75 to 100 acres. While many of those locations are actually near to where our current campus is, I am unsure if having the college at a different location would have made that much of a difference. Granted, I would love to have more parking but I would also love it if we were able to have a bus system that is similar to that of Rutgers but alas, we have a trolley system that comes every so often.
The one thing I really wanted to find out from my research was the WHY did they move from Newark to Union and I feel that I did not get enough information. Yes, I can understand the aftermath effects of World War II and I understand that teachers were in need of the impending baby boom generation but I didn’t feel like I uncovered much that were more so of external forces like the Newark Riots/demonstrations of 1967. I found that much of the information to be over nice and polite and I didn’t get the sense of urgency from many of the letters I went through. In a sense, I feel cheated out of my topic.
Yesterday was the test run of The BlacKeaning Tour. I must say that I am very proud of my fellow classmates and proud of how this project turned out. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I was kind of apprehensive about this project. But now….. I am very excited to see the end results. Hearing everyone’s skit made me think of all the hard work we all put into researching our topics and how many times most of us knocked on Erin’s door for archiving help. By the way, I hope she gets some kind of recognition since she was of tremendous help and alway willing to share any information that we could benefit from to prefect or research. It also made me think of the beginning of the semester when Dr. Perkiss introduced this project to the class and how everyone seemed puzzled. I’m more than glad that I stuck it out, although I was a tad bit disappointed of the change in curriculum at first. Now, I see it was all worth it. As I reflect on yesterday’s test run, I am wearing that “proud mom” smirk. I must say GREAT JOB CLASS!!!!!
Having and getting to be in this black history class was very fun. I never been in a class where it was so different from the aspect of the students really had the power. The tour was our tour and we were in charge of every little thing. Our grades were also more determined by us also. The interactions with each other during class or during our meetings opened my eyes to a whole bunch of different ideas. I think this semester was a success even if we present our tour or not.
This project has been very interesting and at first I really didn’t think that I would be able to get the information that I needed but it all worked out to a certain extent. Even though I did not get a chance to gather as much information like I would have liked to I got enough for me to complete my part of the project. What I found very useful was that I was able to find an old newspaper and it gave me some of the quotes form the speech that Dr. King gave when he came to Kean University. Looking at the old resources that the school has on its own history was very intriguing also. Sometimes it was very hard and frustrating getting my information but I think it all worked out very well.
I have been quietly been hearing the voices of my fellow students in class regarding how the tour is going to be and for the most part, it sounds great. There is a bit of college life and their Greek Fraternities and Sororities, some of the sport groups bad misrepresentation in the yearbook of the time, a bit about Martin Luther King Jr and some of the lesser known speakers that have came to Kean University over at the Harwood Arena, there is a bit about Nancy Thomas and how she connected with soldiers during World War II which is now called the Nancy Thomas Collection; which is dedicated to her work for the many letters that she kept from soldiers from the Kean University and finally (at least to the best of my memory) we have a group that is going to talk at length about the Pan-African Student Union or PASU for short.
I feel that many of the topics that we covered were very good topics and it is very mind opening with some of the information that was found. I am actually more interested about the PASU part of the tour because I feel they made a huge impact on certain University visions. It is also amazing of how the voices of a few can change the degree of flow for the university. While I don’t like to be praising because it is self-fulfilling, I found out from my fellow classmates that PASU had a huge impact in how they were able to build bridges for students and faculties within the University.
Strangely enough, I felt as though the tour could have expanded on the foundation of Kean and how many hands were in involve giving us the university that we have today. I would have loved to have known a bit more about the Kean Family and some of the history surrounding the offering to Eugene Wilkins to being able to build the university where it is now. To be humble, location is key in what you are able to accomplish and what kinds of stories will be able to pop up from it. While I have no gripes about the topics that were pick because they were very fun to listen to and I actually enjoy myself listening in on the many kinds of stories that pop up from Kean University, I just found myself wanting to know more about some of the other histories that may or may not be there within our lovely campus. Our alma mater is “Semper Discens”, which translated from Latin means “Always Learning”. I am always keeping myself curious to be always learning about everything and anything that comes my way.
Originally I thought that i would end up in the group that dealt with dorm life because that was what I really wanted to do. The group that I was selected to be a part of was Greek life, Sports, and student organizations. I was bummed at first because I wanted to know more about how black students felt about being there. How they handled the obstacles of being in a place that formerly did not see them as important enough to educate. So when I received my group I did not think that i would find it as interesting as it actually is.
When I started doing my research I realized that this was exactly what I wanted. This was precisely what I was looking for. There is an organization known as the Exceptional Educational Opportunity, or the EEO for short; it was created to help give funding and financial support to black students that may have had trouble paying for their tuition fees. This organization was what I’d hope to find when searching for students that overcame challenges and played an integral in the black community.
Without them the daycare that we have now would not have been formed. They realized the importance of education. Students that were mothers would take shifts watching each others kids while taking classes. I thought that was amazing. That they were able to really band together and unite for something that would better all of them, and that that is why we have that here till this day. They have much more stories but that was one of my favorites.
Doing this research has really put a few things in perspective for me. It showed me that although blacks students currently are not as united as we once were that it is possible. It made me wish that I could go back in time and be a part of such a powerful and strong-minded community.
Initially upon entering this class I thought this would be your typical black history class; one where we focus on civil rights and prominent black figures. To my surprise the class took an unconventional direction. During this semester we are focusing on black lives at Kean past, present, and future. Immediately questions began to pop in my head. How could we construct our own tour? How far back into the past do we go, and how close into the present are we going to come? Are we going to have enough time and research to even make this a substantial tour? Will this be a controversial issue like race has frequently been? I have never been apart of anything as immense as this. It almost makes me wonder if we will be able to pull it off in this short amount of time, and if we will be able to collaborate cohesively with all of our unique and individual minds. And also, will we be able to tell the stories of these black lives in a manner that truly represents them?
I am very interested in seeing where this course is going to take me. I am interested in learning when black students made there first appearance and any influences they may have had. When I had to think of some research questions for my group placement I already knew where I wanted to begin. The area that quickly caught my attention was black lives at Kean outside the classroom. I wanted to know when blacks were accepted on Campus and how the transition was for them? How was dorm life for them and when were they able to stay? What were the white students reactions to them becoming a mixed race school? I can not imagine what it must have been like to go to a predominantly white school and be one of the handful of blacks to be the first there. Would I be afraid? Would it have been better for me to go to a black college instead? All of these questions that I am unsure of now I hope to find the answers to in the following research to come.