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HIST 268 Oral History Interviews: African Americans and the University of Delaware collection

 Collection
Identifier: MSS 0989

Scope and Contents

The oral history interviews in this collection were collected by the students in Dr. Roger Horowitz’s HIST 268 section, “Oral History: African Americans and the University of Delaware” class, offered first in the fall semester of 2021 and offered a second time during the fall semester of 2023.

Series I, 2021 Interviews, includes the interviews conducted during the first iteration of this course in 2021. Students conducted 25 interviews, with participants drawn from two principal communities: African American alumni of the University of Delaware and residents of the Newark, Delaware’s New London Road/Cleveland Avenue neighborhood. Their recollections are framed by Delaware’s troubled experience with de jure and de facto racial discrimination, as interviewees reflect on their experiences living in Newark and/or attending the University of Delaware in the 1950s-1980s.

As part of the course, students were trained in the methodology of oral history and learned about the history of racial discrimination in Delaware. The interview with Dr. James Newton, a former faculty member at the University of Delaware, was conducted by Dr. Horowitz during a class session as part of this training. Additional information about the experiences of Black residents in Newark and students at the University of Delaware was drawn from historical documents including transcripts of previous interviews of Black residents of Newark from MSS 0642, New London Road/Cleveland Avenue oral histories and research materials, articles printed in the University of Delaware Review from 1950-1988, and the 1969 report, "The Black Student and the University of Delaware," colloquially called "The Scarpitti Report." Students used this information to create a collaborative list of interview topics and themes to pursue with interview subjects.

Interview participants were initially recruited by Dr. Horowitz and Denise Hayman, a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and former resident of Newark. After confirming their interest, participants were connected with students, who were coached through contacting interviewees for initial exploratory interviews, gathering biographical data and information about interviewees’ relationships to Newark and the University of Delaware. This information, along with the interview topics discussed by the class, were used to create personalized agendas for each interview.

Interviews were conducted in November and December, 2021. The interviews were conducted either in-person or using the online conferencing software Zoom. After collecting the interviews, students were instructed to select, summarize, and transcribe a set of short clips covering interview highlights, which were curated into an online exhibition, Oral History Interviews: African Americans and the University of Delaware, which launched in summer 2022.

Topics covered in interviews with Newark residents include childhood activities, the New London Road community, employment in Newark, the relationship between African American residents and University of Delaware, and the expansion of the University of Delaware into the New London Road neighborhood. Topics from alumni interviews include the African American community on campus, the founding of Black fraternities and sororities at University of Delaware, the Center for Black Culture, and the racial climate at University of Delaware.

Brief biographical details about each interviewee are included in the finding aid.

Series II, 2023 interviews, contains an additional nine interviews conducted by students during the fall semester of 2023.

Dates

  • Creation: 2021, 2023

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library, https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?askspec

Historical Note

Established as an all-white institution, the University of Delaware was desegregated following the case Parker v. University of Delaware (1950). Few African American students enrolled over the next decade, with the numbers increasing only slightly in the 1960s. During the same decades, businesses near the University routinely refused service to African Americans, and even as formal barriers fell, hostility towards African American customers remained strong for decades. Student protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s, along with the wider Civil Rights Movement, resulted in changes at the University and the creation of a variety of vibrant programs supporting African American students, including sororities, fraternities, academic support services, an African American cultural center, and the Black American Studies program. Many of these programs were started after Sociology professor Dr. Frank R. Scarpitti chaired the Advisory Committee on Policies, Programs, and Services Affecting Blacks and Other Minority Group Students, which was charged with recommending policies to improve the campus climate for minority students. Nonetheless, the campus remained overwhelmingly white, creating enduring challenges for African American students and staff.

During these same years, Newark itself had a strong African American community. With roots stretching back to the 19th century, Newark’s African Americans worked in a range of local industries and in the homes of white residents. The University of Delaware was an important source of employment as well. Housing discrimination confined these African American residents into a small neighborhood centered around the intersection of New London Road and Cleveland Avenue, and the refusal of Main Street businesses to serve African Americans stimulated the creation of a wide range of African American businesses and institutions. As the university enrollment expanded in the late 1960s and 1970s, it began to take over open spaces previously used by African American residents, and then to convert African American neighborhoods into university buildings and student housing, generating friction with long-time residents.

Historical note composed by Dr. Roger Horowitz, June 2022.

"In Memoriam: Frank R. Scarpitti." UDaily, March 5, 2019. https://www.udel.edu/udaily/2019/march/in-memoriam-frank-scarpitti/ (accessed June 2022).

Extent

2.68 gigabyte (25 Interviews, available in 27 MP3 files)

2.41 megabyte (25 interview indexes, available as PDF files)

Abstract

The oral history interviews in this collection were collected by the students in Dr. Roger Horowitz’s HIST 268 section, “Oral History: African Americans and the University of Delaware” class, first offered in the fall semester of 2021 and offered a second time during the fall semester of 2023. Students conducted these interviews with participants drawn from two principal communities: African American alumni of the University of Delaware and residents of the Newark, Delaware’s New London Road/Cleveland Avenue neighborhood. Their recollections are framed by Delaware’s troubled experience with de jure and de facto racial discrimination, as interviewees reflect on their experiences living in Newark and/or attending the University of Delaware in the 1950s-1980s.

Arrangement

Oral history interviews are arranged into series by semester in which the interviews were conducted, then alphabetically by last name.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of project participants, 2021, 2023.

Material Available in Alternative Format

Access to streaming audio of the oral histories and interview indexes are available by following the links in the finding aid. The entire collection is available in Artstor Public Collections.

Related Materials in this Repository

MSS 0642, New London Road/Cleveland Avenue oral histories and research materials

Items from the collection appeared in the exhibition “Oral History Interviews: African Americans and the University of Delaware,” 2022. The exhibition can be viewed online at https://exhibitions.lib.udel.edu/oral-histories-african-americans-and-ud/.

Rights Statement

The text of this web page can be reused and modified under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Processing Information

Series I processed by John Caldwell and Jay Reed, April-June 2022. Encoded by John Caldwell, May-June 2022. Series II processed and encoded by John Caldwell, January 2024.

Processing Information

Indexes for each interview in Series I were created by Jay Reed, a student in the course who completed an independent study with Dr. Horowitz during spring semester 2022 to continue working on the collection. Indexes for each interview in Series II were created by the student interviewers.

Title
Finding aid for HIST 268 Oral History Interviews: African Americans and the University of Delaware collection
Status
Completed
Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Date
2022 May 23
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

Contact:
181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA
302-831-2229