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In 1903, W.E.B. DuBois wrote in "The Souls of Black Folk" that Black people gave America distinct gifts that no one else offered. In his text, he identified these gifts as song, brawn, and spirit. He concluded his observations by asking, "Would America have been America without her Negro People?" One hundred years later, it is still unclear how we would go about answering this question as it related to The Johns Hopkins University. What is it that Black folk as a people, distinct from select individuals, have offered to make Johns Hopkins University and the university community what it is today? What is it that we offer that others do not? And how do these contributions help the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) to become the institution we would like it to be?

This initiative was launched in January 2003 with the goal of beginning this type of analysis by collecting the stories of African Americans associated with the Johns Hopkins Institutions as a whole. Our mission is thus two-fold. First, we aim to assess the contribution of African Americans on our campuses that makes their presence indispensable. Second, the project also works to synthesize and integrate these identified contributions and to explore what makes them unique and essential.

Planning for the project began when then Black Student Union (BSU) President, April Land, approached Eisenhower Library staff member Joyce Mason to inquire about the Library's plans to celebrate Black History Month.  Ms. Mason then conferred with Sharon and John Morris and the idea of students participating in an on-going project focusing on contributions of African Americans to Hopkins was born.  A multi-disciplinary project committee composed of members from the Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Black student Union, the Fred Scott Brigade, the Society of Black Alumni, the History Department and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library was formed to guide the project. 

Since 2003, each semester JHU undergraduates who have applied and been selected by the Project Committee undertake a three-credit independent study. Under the direction of a faculty advisor, with guidance from the Librarians and a multi-departmental Planning Committee, the students each select a topic, conduct primary research, including oral histories an archival research when applicable. Each student then writes a scholarly paper or develops a multimedia, digital project presenting their research. These projects are then included as part of this growing online exhibition.

For additional details, see:

article published in The Johns Hopkins Magazine, April 2005.

article published in JHU Arts & Sciences Magazine, Spring 2008




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