March 21, 2009

A Step Away from 1918-1919: A Lesson Plan Companion for the Blog

We believe, and hope that all of you reading this blog will agree, that history comes alive through a connection with primary sources. As a public institution, the material in the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) in Swem Library is available to anyone wishing to use it who agrees to follow the rules established to preserve the material while still making it available to researchers. The public does not always realize that the collections in the SCRC are open to anyone and that includes pre-college students.

In an effort to share the primary sources highlighted in this blog as well as a slice of the history of the College of William and Mary, Molly Perry, a graduate student in the Department of History who has been an apprentice in the SCRC during the 2008-2009 academic year, has created a lesson plan suitable for use with grades 8-11. In the lesson, students can practice analyzing primary sources to learn about young women arriving at the College of William and Mary to better understand the lives of people in the past and the process of research. The lesson plan available via the SCRC's wiki includes an outline of the lesson, applicable U.S. and Virginia standards, and suggested instructions for how teachers may choose to carry out the lesson. Sample topics in six topical areas are available for groups of students from the historian's task wiki page. A research sheet and conclusions sheet have also been prepared.

While the SCRC cannot boast the resources for teachers that an institution as large as the Library of Congress has compiled, Ms. Perry has also prepared lesson plans for other online SCRC materials including the Richard Manning Bucktrout Daybook and Ledger and the Manuscripts and Rare Books Grab Bag. The SCRC hopes to make more lesson plans that incorporate the unique materials in our collections available for middle and high school teachers in the future. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us.

March 5, 2009

A Step Away from 1918-1919: The College of William and Mary's First African American Coeds

In the Fall 1967, almost fifty years after the first women students were allowed to matriculate, the College of William and Mary welcomed its first residential African American coeds. The university had admitted its first African American student, Hulon Willis, in March 1951. After Willis, William and Mary admitted two more students of African descent in the 1950s, including one woman in 1955, who withdrew from the institution at the end of the academic year. It was sixteen years later for anything approaching a "mass" number of black students to matriculate at the College, at the same time. The three African American coeds were Karen Ely, Lynn Briley, and Janet Brown.

Images from the Colonial Echo, the College of William and Mary yearbook

When the young women came to campus, the only other African American students on campus were three undergraduate men who were attending part-time and one graduate student. The young women were interviewed by Nadia Tongour in the October 1967 issue of the student newspaper The Flat Hat. The women discussed why they applied to William and Mary, the social attitudes they encountered, and their views on the current state of black political activism. Roommates, the women mentioned their curiosity about how white people lived and realizing that there were no significant differences, Karen Ely said, "I've been surprised at how little difference there is. I expected a much more different transition from a completely segregated high school to a predominantly white college."

The Flat Hat article is an example of how socially and culturally aware African Americans were in America, particularly during the 1960s. Ms. Ely commented how surprised she was about the lack of social and class competition at the university. Many people think black Americans are only concerned with racial issues, but as this comment demonstrates that in addition to race, class was and continues to be a big issue with African Americans.

One comment that stands out in the article, which could also apply to the contemporary social atmosphere at William and Mary, is the lack of discussion about race. Janet Brown stated "I wish that people would feel freer about discussing race relations with us. They seem to shy away from the subject." If the reader did not know the article was from 1967, they might think Ms. Brown is talking about William and Mary in the twenty-first century.

The new students were from the Hampton Roads area, according to the 1968 Colonial Echo. Janet Brown was from Newport News and both Karen Ely and Lynn Briley were from Portsmouth.Their respective majors were Elementary Education (Brown), English (Briley), and Biology (Ely). As far as student organizations, an area always high on the list of interests to William and Mary students, Janet Brown was a member of the Young Democrats and the Black Students Organization. Lynn Briley was also a member of the Black Students Organization. In addition to her participation in the Black Students Organization, Karen Ely also participated in the Chorus.

This post was composed by Jeffreen Hayes.

For additional information about the first women students at the College of William and Mary see: When Mary Entered with her Brother William: Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945 by Laura F. Parrish; "The Petticoat Invasion": Women at the College of William and Mary, 1918-1945; The Martha Barksdale Papers; and the Women at the College of William and Mary page on the Special Collections Research Center Wiki.