By Shaina Destine, Residency Librarian
Archives, all across the United States, have historically been venues that excluded the voices of marginalized communities. That is problematic for many reasons but most importantly future generations will not have a full picture of history as it happened. When multiple segments of a story are discarded, the story is far from reality and can be distorted in any way that suits the desired narrative. That is a powerful and dangerous weapon. My calling as an archivist is to fill in those gaps. More than accuracy, archives are a stamp that someone was here. Archives are a stamp that someone did something. It is a tool of empowerment. Representation is a necessity for communities that have been silenced for generations.
The HBCU Connections at ISU, a wiki featuring black ISU alumni who learned and worked at historically black colleges and universities (HBCU), was a labor of love and of duty. It was my responsibility. Black students have been here at Iowa State. They have accomplished things that people at the time – and people now – could not even imagine. However, there was very little evidence of them in our archive, so I began to research. In the early part of the 20th century, black people were suffering, living and dying under Jim Crow laws but still had this resilient spirit and desire to give back to their communities through education. HBCUs were in their infancy, but were essential in this endeavor. Through my research, I found that many black people, who passed through Iowa State for undergraduate or graduate degrees, went on to – or in some cases, back to – HBCUs to build the school and, in essence, the black community.
This project covers any black Iowa State alumni from 1900 to 1950 who went on to serve at an HBCU in any capacity. It features professors to presidents. It is meant to be a living platform that can be updated as additional information becomes available and uncovered. *If you have any updated information to add to this project, please email it with sources to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project is also meant to bridge the gap between the Iowa State University archives and the archives at the various HBCUs with whom I communicated. HBCU archives are traditionally under-funded and under-resourced. My hope is that this bridge is helpful to them in some way. Lastly, my hope is that this project is helpful to future scholars who need to see the stamp of their ancestors and follow the breadcrumbs that they left us on how to help raise up the community.
I am extremely proud of this project. I am glad that the Special Collections and University Archives at Iowa State University Library gave me the opportunity to create it. I am glad that there is more research and platforms like this on its way (stay tuned!). I’m so happy that I had a mentor like Harrison Inefuku, scholarly publishing services librarian, to teach me so much in the process. And lastly, I’m glad that I have created my stamp on the archives and brought these stories to the fore. Please enjoy: hbcuconnections.iastatedigital.org