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.