Deborah Gray White
Rutgers University Recognizes Historical Ties to Racism and Slavery
A number of colleges across the nation are taking steps to confront their own historical ties to racism and slavery, and one of those is Rutgers — New Jersey’s state university. Last week, the school published a book called Scarlet and Black, Volume 1: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History. Among other things, the report details how some of the university’s most prominent figures participated in the slave trade, and how Rutgers benefited from the displacement of Native Americans from their lands.
WNYC’s David Furst spoke with Rutgers history professor Deborah Gray White, who chairs the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History, which undertook the work of writing the book.
Scarlet and Black: An Exploration of the African-American and Native American Experience at Rutgers
The Scarlet and Black Project is a historical exploration of the experiences of two disenfranchised populations, African Americans and Native Americans, at Rutgers University. Its initial work begins with Scarlet and Black, Volume 1: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, which traces the university’s early history, uncovering how the university benefited from the slave economy and how Rutgers came to own the land it inhabits.
The committee was charged with seeking out the untold story of disadvantaged populations in the university’s history.
The project is undertaken by the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History, which was created in 2015 by Rutgers University–New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards. With his guidance, the Committee was charged with seeking out the untold story of disadvantaged populations in the university’s history and recommending how Rutgers can best acknowledge their influence. Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History Deborah Gray White chairs that Committee, which comprises prominent faculty, staff, and students.
The Scarlet and Black Project intends to provide a fuller record of Rutgers University by adding to its chronicles the experiences of African Americans and Native Americans—peoples whose experiences are often lost in the pages of history.
Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History Edited by Marisa J. Fuentes, Deborah Gray White Contributions by Beatrice J. Adams, Shaun Armstead, Jesse Bayker, Christopher Blakley, Kendra Boyd, Miya Carey, Kaisha Esty, Marisa J. Fuentes, Tracey Johnson, Daniel Manuel, Jomaira Salas Pujols, Brenann Sutter, Camilla Townsend, Pamela N. Walker, Caitlin Reed Wiesner, Deborah Gray White.
Deborah Gray White is the Board of Governors Professor of History and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. In addition to teaching at Rutgers, she also directed, “The Black Atlantic: Race, Nation and Gender”, a project at The Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis from 1997-1999. Throughout 2000-2003 she was the chair of the history department at Rutgers.
Education and Early Career
White received her M.A. degree from Columbia University in 1973. While a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Chicago she was hired as a history instructor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. In 1978 White was promoted to assistant professor. She held the position until she was promoted to associate professor in 1984. In 1984 she accepted a position in the history department of Rutgers.
In 2012 White gave the keynote speech the 14th Annual Conference of the Graduate Association for African-American History at the University of Memphis. The conference invited scholars of African-American history from all over the US as well as internationally.
Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower, ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, forthcoming 2008), Too Heavy A Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894-1994 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999), Let My People Go: African American 1800-1865 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), Ar’n’t I A Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (New York: W.W. Norton, 1985, 1999 [2nd ed])