For the first time in life I experienced real life research. Research for the BlacKeaning tour was not easy I ran into a lot of road blocks. My goal of the BlacKeaning was to research Kean alumni. I started out very excited about this I thought I was just going to be able to find some random Kean alumni and they were going to be open about telling their story. That was not the case. During my research I starting with going on Facebook and going to the Kean university alumni page I wrote several post urging anybody to get in contact with me so they could share their story. Unfortunately I never got any response. I didn’t let that slow me down my next step was to get into contact with Kean university alumni association. This is where I was able to gain a new lead. I look through the yearbook and I look at the different clubs African Americans were in and I got their information and I reach out to them. This is where I was able to do phone interviews with some alumni. Originally I thought I was going to get a lot of stories about how Kean was racist and how they had a bad experience at this school. But I didn’t I actually got positive stories about Kean and how being at Kean added to their success post grad. So with this information I change the way I was going to present my research instead of talking about the bad experience as an African American student at Kean I wanted to highlight the good and show how Black excellence is important. I feel that by participating in this tour it made be a better researcher.
The overall experience of creating this tour has been difficult at times but ultimately very rewarding. At first, this class was intimidating since it was not a traditional lecture style class but instead made each student dig into the history of black life at Kean. I ran into a few obstacles in my portion of the project, which was dorm life. My idea for the tour was to interview a former student of color about their experience at Kean, this turned out to be harder than expected. I began by going through yearbooks and identifying people of interest that I could reach out to and hopefully speak with. This then led me to the alumni office to contact these former students, which were collected from the yearbooks of 1965 through 1975. Although none of the people I identified in the yearbook and reached out to responded to my emails, I eventually got to interview a former student through the help of my classmate. The interview I did with the former student went well and gave me what i needed to make the dorm life section of the tour compelling. As stated before this class at first seemed intimidating, but it really gave me a look into the research historians often have to do and ultimately gave me a better outlook on black life at Kean Universtiy.
After an entire semester of researching the topic of the historical background of Black History on Kean University, specifically pertaining to dorm life and social cohesion on campus, the information uncovered is finally organized for presentation. The information uncovered in regards to this topic will provide the listeners of the tour with background information on when and how Kean University initially acquired dorms in the 1960s. Furthermore, it will inform the listeners on how the dorms impacted the life of African-Americans on campus in particular in regards to racial issues. This is best demonstrated by providing information acquired from a first-hand account via an interview of one of the former students who lived in Kean University’s dorms during the 1970s. Furthermore, other information provided includes statistics that clearly show how college programs such as EOF were implemented and which in turn helped African-Americans and other people of color to gain more opportunities to study at the school and as a result populate the dorm life at a higher rate. Also, it will be noted most importantly how these programs which lead to an increase in the numbers of people of color who attended Kean University in the 1970s was a direct result of the nationwide social movements that were demanding equal rights for racially marginalized people. All in all, after successfully organizing all of this information, it was in turn presented a few times during tours in order to what I am hoping lead to an inspire audience, one that not only gained a better understanding of a little known aspect of Kean University, but that is still meaningful this very day, and therefore could use inspired people to contribute in its affairs.
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.