Deborah Gray White to give Gilder-Jordan Lecture on Southern Cultural History


By Rebecca Lauck Cleary

University of Mississippi Communications

Historian Deborah Gray White plans to explain the Scarlet and Black Project at Rutgers University and its implications for understanding history at the University of Mississippi for this year’s Gilder-Jordan Lecture on Cultural History from South. The talk will be given online at 5:30 p.m. on September 21. Submitted photo

Beginning in 2015, faculty, staff and students at Rutgers University gained a better understanding of the untold story of underprivileged populations in the history of the university through the Scarlet and Black Project, co-chaired by the historian Deborah Gray White.

In this year’s Gilder-Jordan lecture on Southern Cultural History at the University of Mississippi, “The Ticket Price: Paying for Diversity and Inclusion,” White will explain the Scarlet and Black Project itself – how African Americans and Native Americans influenced the Rutgers campus, and how this raised complex questions for the university to consider as it began to introspect and acknowledge the past.

She will deliver her free online talk at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday (September 21). Registration is available on

“White’s reputation as a historian of African-American women is reason enough to invite her to give this prestigious lecture, but her work around the history of Rutgers University has been an additional layer of interest. for the selection committee, ”said Katie McKee, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“As the University of Mississippi continues its quest to directly confront a history deeply rooted in inequity, Rutgers provides a model for how higher education communities can collectively look to the past and imagine a future that emerges from the past. work we do in the present. “

The Scarlet and Black Project resulted in a three-volume ‘Scarlet and Black’, which traces the history of Rutgers’ beginnings from 1766 to the present day, finding out how he benefited from the slave economy and how the university became landlord. of the land it inhabits, as well as examining how concepts related to race and gender evolved over the 20th century. The books also focus on student activism and campus history of students of color from World War II to the present day.

“I was very happy that everyone with expertise agreed to help me,” White said. “We have a seminar on campus and the person researching the origins of the seminar had volunteered to help me, and the college archivist had researched the history of Rutgers, so he volunteered, and my colleagues and students all helped work on it.

“People have just come out of the woods, and we have an exceptional cadre of graduate students, some of whom are now assistant professors. We organized them and sent them to the archives and we paid them to do the research and the writing, and that’s how it went.

Undergraduates studied how Native Americans were driven from the land on which Rutgers was built in the first article of the first volume of the “Scarlet and Black” series.

“This kind of story pays dividends, but it costs,” White said. “There are a lot of people out there who won’t want this kind of story written, and I think we like to think of New Jersey as a northern state that didn’t have slaves, and in fact New Jersey. had more slaves than any other northern state in 1865, when the 13th Amendment was passed.

“I think finding out about the history of Mississippi is going to bring out a lot of things that a lot of people don’t want to hear and would rather forget. The price of the ticket is to understand that in order to really move forward we have to go through this and you have to understand that the price is emotional and financial. “

Prior to delivering the Gilder-Jordan lecture, White will meet online with graduate students from across the UM campus at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss his work with the Rutgers students who researched and wrote most of the essays published in the ” Scarlet and Black “. Her discussion will focus on the value of this type of research, including the benefits of research outside one’s area of ​​expertise, working collaboratively, entering the workforce with published material, and learning. the ins and outs of university publishing.

Interested students can register for the meeting at

“I love talking with graduate students and will use this time to talk about the profession and how to do it as a historian,” White said. “I want to tell them what are the best practices for graduate students, like how to choose a thesis topic as well as how to finish.”

White is Emeritus Professor of History on the Board of Governors at Rutgers and an expert on African American women’s history.

She is the author of “Am I not a woman?” Female slaves in the south of the plantation “ and “Too Heavy a Load: Black Women Defend Themselves, 1894-1994”. She is also editor of “Telling Histories: Black Women in the Ivory Tower”, a collection of personal accounts of African-American historians which chronicles the entry of black women into the profession of historian and the development of the field of black women’s history.

Organized by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the African American Studies Program, the Center for Civil War Research, and the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History, the Gilder-Jordan Lecture Series is made possible through generosity from the Gilder Foundation Inc. The series honors the late Richard Gilder of New York and his family, as well as alumni of Ole Miss Dan and Lou Jordan of Virginia.

Visit or contact Afton Thomas at [email protected] for more details.

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