Center for Mason Legacies: research discussion + reception on April 22

The Center for Mason Legacies (CML) is pleased to announce an upcoming panel discussion and reception surrounding their research for Black Lives Next Door, to take place on Friday, April 22, 2022, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in Fenwick Library, Room 2001.

The panel discussion will feature George Oberle (director of the Center for Mason Legacies, history librarian, and assistant term professor), LaNitra Berger (senior director of Office of Fellowships and associate director of the African and African American Studies program), Anthony Guidone (doctoral student researcher), Eliza Buckner (undergraduate student researcher), and will be moderated by Rosemarie Zagarri (University Professor). The keynote will be offered by Spencer Crew (Robinson Professor).

Black Lives Next Door is an interdisciplinary project and collaboration between faculty and students to explore the environs surrounding the early years of George Mason College and its transition to a university. Initially supported by a Summer Team Impact Grant award from the university in 2021, the work is ongoing, and CML welcomes inquiries and partnership opportunities.

The April 22 event is hosted by the University Libraries and sponsored by an award from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Intellectual Life of the College Committee.

Exploring the NAACP records at the Libraries

The University Libraries holds a rich collection of primary source resources to study the African American and Black experience in the United States and the Americas. In celebration of Black and African Heritage Month, the Libraries and the Center for Mason Legacies are launching a new series highlighting various resources, beginning with a look at the NAACP records by George Oberle, History Librarian and Director of the Center for Mason Legacies.

There are several parts to the NAACP records including the “Special Subjects” group which cover subjects and episodes that are crucial to the NAACP’s history, such as civil rights complaints and legislation, the Klan, Birth of a Nation, the Walter White-W. E. B. Du Bois controversy of 1933-1934, communism and anticommunism during the years of the “red scare,” the congressional prosecution of Hollywood personalities, the prosecution of conscientious objectors during World War II, NAACP’s relations with African colonial liberation movements, NAACP fundraising and membership recruitment, urban riots, the War on Poverty, and the emergence of the Black Power Movement.

Among this broad array of subjects, the collection has excellent coverage of topics such as the depiction of African Americans in film. Below is an example from a series of letters regarding Walt Disney’s “Song of the South.”

The Libraries also holds other significant parts of this important collection where explorations on education, housing, voting rights and other critical events throughout the 20th century can be explored. Evidence of complaints against police violence, lawsuits to promote equal pay for Black teachers and evidence of the resistance to racist practices abound in these collections.

Researchers from the Center for Mason Legacies (CML) recently uncovered a story (see document below) about a man named Willie Coles, involved in a legal case in Fairfax in 1953. CML researchers are continuing to search for more details about this man’s story, which will be added to the Black Lives Next Door site, their examination of our regional history.

To explore the NAACP papers, see:

ProQuest History Vault: NAACP Papers: The NAACP’s Major Campaigns- Education, Voting, Housing, Employment, Armed Forces

Major campaigns for equal access to education, voting, employment, housing and the military are covered in this resource. The education files in this module document the NAACP’s systematic assault on segregated education that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Files from 1955 –1965 focus on the NAACP’s efforts to implement the Brown decision as well as to combat de facto segregation outside of the South.

Proquest History Vault: NAACP Papers: The NAACP’s Major Campaigns – Scottsboro, Anti-Lynching, Criminal Justice, Peonage, Labor and Segregation and Discrimination Complaints and Responses

This NAACP module focuses on the NAACP’s efforts regarding anti-lynching, peonage, and discrimination in employment and the criminal justice system. A rich set of records in this module is the NAACP file on one of the most celebrated criminal trials of the 20th century – the case of the Scottsboro boys, who escaped execution in the landmark Supreme Court case of Powell v. Alabama.

Proquest History Vault: NAACP Papers: Board of Directors, Annual Conferences, Major Speeches, and National Staff Files

Digital access to the NAACP archive including internal memos, legal briefings, and direct action summaries from national, legal, and branch offices throughout the country. It provides a comprehensive view of the NAACP’s evolution, policies, and achievements from 1909–1970.

ProQuest History Vault: The Black Freedom Struggle of the 20th Century: Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Part 2

Contains records of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Africa-related papers of Claude Barnett, and the Robert F. Williams Papers. SNCC, formed by student activists in 1960 after the explosion of the sit-in movement, was one of the three most important civil rights organizations of the 1960s, alongside SCLC and the NAACP. With the addition of SNCC records, History Vault now includes SNCC, SCLC, and NAACP records.

Throughout the month of February, Mason’s Center for Culture, Equity, and Empowerment, along with other campus departments, is celebrating Black and African Heritage Month with a number of events. Learn more here.

Center for Mason Legacies releases “Black Lives Next Door” preliminary findings

The Center for Mason Legacies (CML) invites you to explore their newly created digital project, Black Lives Next Door: George Mason and Northern Virginia in an Age of Disparity and Opportunity (BLND). Building on work that began in 2020, BLND is presenting its first set of findings and inviting our community to take a journey through our “pasts next door” and related stories. Read the full announcement here.

About the Center for Mason Legacies: CML is an interdisciplinary and collaborative research center established by the University Libraries and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. CML’s mission is to preserve and examine the legacy of George Mason IV (1725-1792), his ancestors and heirs, and the people he enslaved. Learn more about the center here and their various research projects here.

Summer Research Opportunities for Undergrads

The Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities and Research (OSCAR) has posted the 2021 Summer Team Impact Project undergrad positions to Handshake. There are six great projects this year, including one led by faculty affiliated with the Center for Mason Legacies (read more here). Each project will take on 6-10 undergrad students for paid summer research positions. Students can find the opportunities by searching “Summer Team Impact Project” on Handshake.

CML Team awarded 2021 Summer Team Impact Grant for “Black Lives Next Door”

The Center for Mason Legacies (CML) is pleased to announce the receipt of a Summer Team Impact Grant for “Black Lives Next Door,” an interdisciplinary project and collaboration between faculty and students to explore the environs surrounding the early years of George Mason College and its transition to a university.

LaNitra Berger (senior director of fellowships in the Office of Undergraduate Education, instructor, and affiliated faculty of CML), Benedict Carton (associate professor of History and associate director of CML), and George Oberle (History Librarian, assistant professor, and director of CML) will lead the summer team of six undergraduate students and two graduate research assistants.

During the summer of 2020, a season of protest against police-involved killings of unarmed African Americans, the legal scholar Richard Rothstein wrote a New York Times op-ed, “Black Lives Next Door.” In this op-ed, he urged more scholarly studies of “comprehensive racial inequity…that allows abusive…practices to flourish” at the local level.

Rothstein’s call for new research prompted Berger, Carton, and Oberle to explore the racial inequities that shaped neighborhoods around the George Mason University campus in Fairfax. The faculty team also credits their participation in the pedagogical pursuits of President Washington’s Task Force on Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) for informing their proposed project. Berger serves on the Curriculum & Pedagogy Committee, Carton on the Research Committee, and Oberle on the Campus & Community Engagement Committee of ARIE.

The team of selected undergraduates will examine the founding years of George Mason College and its associated history of dislodging particular homeowners and renters. They will be guided by two important questions: why and how did the College remove from its immediate vicinity Black communities established by Jim Crow-era residential covenants? What happened to the supplanted people and can their experiences of displacement by recovered and brought to light?

“One of the things that is important to me, and a vital aspect of the work of the Center for Mason Legacies, is uncovering hidden history, particularly the stories around us and involving our George Mason University community,” says Oberle. “I have been part of this community since 1994 in various capacities, as student, librarian, and instructor. This time of racial reckoning across our country – and locally – has encouraged me to examine some of my preconceived ideas about our university’s history. I’m excited for our students to be part of this examination, to have the opportunity to uncover lost stories through hands-on history explorations, and to learn more about their community through the questions they raise during our conversations and fieldwork this summer.”

The undergraduate student positions will be posted on Handshake, the university’s career database for students, in mid-February. Primary duties of undergraduate student researchers will include: conducting field research with teams of graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty; collecting, depositing, and providing metadata description of documentary evidence in an online digital archive system (Omeka); and collaborating to produce an online exhibit which synthesizes and analyzes the collected evidence to share stories about these communities. As conditions allow, student fieldwork may involve conducting oral history interviews and digitizing relevant real estate and suburban planning information sourced from archives, court houses, and libraries.