Friday, August 31, 2018

Anniversary of the 1968 Student Demonstrations

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of a series of student-led demonstrations that rocked Delaware State College. I could not have let the year go by without mentioning the historical moments that continue to be among those most widely discussed and debated.

Please note, as an archivist, I am predisposed to base my research in the documentary evidence of the past. Written word does not have a fallible memory. In this case, however, to rely purely on paper  would result in a one-sided story because the majority of DSU's archival records are created by administrators. In order to hear the students' voices I had to have a conversation, 50 years after the fact, with those who led and participated in the demonstrations. Because memories have faded, I was unable to find the answers to all my questions.  The following narrative is what I have pieced together, but I cannot not declare it the "gospel truth."  If you were a Delaware State University student in 1968 I would relish the opportunity to hear your accounts. You may be the key to further understanding this very complex and often confusing series of events.

In 1968 the country was in the midst of the civil rights movement.  Delaware State College students were frustrated not only by the political and social climes of the nation, but also of the college.  They sought a number of campus changes - less restrictive visitation rights between male and female dormitories, the removal of rodents from their residences, extended library hours, the development of black studies academic courses, and a greater sense of community with the citizens of Dover.

In March 1968 DSC students held a one-day boycott in support of their demands. According to newspaper articles written in the week following, 800 students skipped their 8 a.m. classes to come together in Delaware Hall.  After a brief meeting they proceeded to Grossley Hall which was at that time the administration building.  President Luna I. Mishoe (father of our current president) was abroad in Europe, but Nathaniel E. Tillman, acting academic dean, agreed to meet with the students at 10 a.m. By all accounts, the boycott was orderly and successful. The News Journal from March 23, 1968 said that both the students and administrators, "provided a textbook example ...of the most effective way to survive a demonstration." In the end, the college agreed to review and correct the rodent situation, open the library an additional two hours on weekdays, and permit visitation by women to the men's dormitories on Sunday afternoons. No disciplinary action was taken against any of the students.

After such a successful outcome it unclear why, just five days later, on March 25 the female students held a sing-in to protest their curfew. The residents of Tubman Hall, who were expected to be in their rooms by 10:00 p.m. left shortly after to gather at the MLK Student Center.  At 11:00 they left the student center and headed to the on-campus apartment of Mrs. Dorothy Harris, Dean of Students. For the next forty-five minutes they sang popular civil rights movement songs and college cheers.

It seems that this time around, the proceedings were more disruptive. Stones were thrown on Dean Harris' porch and the dormitory sign-out sheets were vandalized. Additionally, a fire started in a maintenance building at midnight. Although there was no reason to suspect foul-play, the newspapers reported the student demonstration and the fire jointly. This cast a pall over the events.

Over the course of the next several months, I do not know what the relationship between students and administrators was like.  I also don't know which of the student demands, if any, were met. I can guess however, that the students continued to face some of the same frustrations as well as some new ones. In May of 1968 it all came to a head, and this is where it can get confusing...

In 1967 DSC constructed a new student center and a men's dormitory. By the spring of 1968 neither one had as yet been named, and students had opinions on the matter.  In light of Martin Luther King's assassination in April, the students felt strongly that the student center should be named in honor of Dr. King.  They additionally wanted the dormitory to be named after Medgar Evers. They went so far as to send a written petition to President Mishoe.  Evidently he agreed with their choice and recommended to the Board of Trustees that the building be dedicated in Dr. King's name.

I can only guess that the students never received word from the board as to this decision.  I have spoken to the 1968 President of the Student Government Association and numerous other students present at the time. None of them can recall being informed.  At the same time, however, the secretaries in President Mishoe's office definitively remember ordering programs in advance of the dedication celebration which clearly stated the name of the student center.

Here's what I know happened: On May 10, 1968, President Mishoe, Governor Charles Terry, members of the Board, and other distinguished guests took to the platform to begin the dedication program.  The Governor was just about to begin his address when a rowdy, but small, group of students marched across campus chanting "Student Power!" The SGA president pushed aside the Governor proceeded to name the dormitory and student center.

Disciplinary action against the students was swift.  All the participants in the demonstration were suspended until such a time as they submitted a letter of apology. This course of action by college administrators only incited the larger student body. One week after the dedication, the student body once again occupied Grossley Hall to protest the disciplinary action and again raise the issue of library hours, dormitory visitation, the rats in their living areas, and, this time, the development of a black studies program.

When Governor Terry heard word of the secondary student demonstration he dispatched the National Guard and State Police. The National Guard  had been present in Wilmington as a result of severe rioting, but after the directive from the Governor, they quickly mobilized and relocated to Dover. Armed men with police dogs and tanks (this sounds like an exaggeration to me, but what do I know) stormed the DSC campus. Upon seeing this, the students agreed to walk peacefully to the student center where they met with President Mishoe.  Ultimately, the remainder of the semester was cancelled and the students were sent home.  Commencement was also cancelled, but it was later quietly held off campus.

In the end, the students demands were largely met including the naming of the student center and dormitory in accordance with their wishes. The students wrote their letters of apology and were allowed to return to school the following fall.  Unfortunately, Leroy Tate, the SGA president was suspended indefinitely.  A year later, President Mishoe was gracious enough to work with him to devise a way that would allow him to be readmitted to Delaware State College. Ultimately, Tate chose not to return.

In 2003 the class of 1968 returned to the campus of Delaware State University to officially hold their commencement. In 2010 when a newer student center replaced the old one, Leroy Tate was invited to join the platform party for the dedication in a jovial moment of reconciliation. Today, at nearly every alumni gathering the 1968 demonstrations continue to dominate the "remember when..." conversations.

What do you remember? Did I get it right? I'd love to hear from you! Drop me a line at  You are also welcome to come view the many archival documents pertaining to this era. I've included just a small sample below. Click on each photo to enlarge it. 

Friday, August 17, 2018

Society of American Archivists Conference, August 15-18, 2018

Hello from Washington D.C.!  Last week I was privileged to be able to attend the annual Society of American Archivists conference. This was an amazing opportunity to meet and interact with 2,200 archivists and records managers! 

As individuals we met in order to learn from friends and colleagues in order to shape the future of our respective archival institutions.  However, we also came together as a professional body in order to further develop and establish the best practices of our field.

Here are just a few of things I learned:

  • There is a difference between a manager and a leader.  One is a job title and the other is a value system. If someday I become a manager, I should foster leadership from all levels of an organization.  Even a student worker can take leadership. 
  • In current trends, academic archives are coming alongside community archives in order to show them how to preserve the histories of the underrepresented groups or individuals who would not otherwise be recognized in a government or higher education repository. 
  • I need to think more critically about how undergraduates access the DSU archives.  How can the technical terms used in finding aids, er...I mean collection guides... be made clearer?  Are there changes I should make to demonstrate that my office is not purely for my uses but is also a reading room?
The conference was also a time to reconnect with old classmates and friends. We had a laid-back reception at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum where we snacked on donuts under the watchful gaze of dinosaurs, and pointed our sticky fingers at the hope diamond. We also made new friends a story hour where we regaled each other with humorous tales of our archival (mis)adventures.

At the end of it all, I came home a very tired archivist - a positive sign of a stimulated brain. I am already looking forward to the possibility of seeing my colleagues at SAA in Austin, Texas next year! 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Architectural drawings update

After a marathon session today, I am pleased to say that Phase I of the architectural drawings project is COMPLETED! 

You may remember from last month that I shared my initial work on a lengthy project to make sense of DSU's architectural drawings. Formerly, the drawings were tossed haphazardly into one of our building's basements and had been neglected for decades. After this room came onto my radar, I volunteered to use my powers of librarianship to process the drawings the same way that I would any archival collection.  It is to be hoped that when I am done, the Office of Capital Planning and Environment Sustainability will be able to utilize the drawings with greater ease.

As the project stands today, I have now gained physical control over the drawings thus completing the first phase of processing.  At the very least, I can say that each drawing has been identified by building.  Moving into Phase II tomorrow, I will begin to identify each drawing by electrical, fire systems, structural, furniture plans, etc.  All of this data will be logged into an excel spreadsheet and soon (I hope) passed onto our campus planning managers. 

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these photographs showing the very drastic improvements from those of last month.  Stay tuned for more later!

Although it still looks chaotic, these drawings are separated by building and
identified by the little blue notes. 

Look! We can now see the floor! 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Happy 25th Anniversary Delaware State University

This month we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the name change from Delaware State College to Delaware State University.

In May of 1993 President DeLauder's administration submitted to the Delaware Legislature a document to request a name change from "college" to "university." The request inspired Senate Bill 138 which was sponsored by Senator Herman M. Holloway Sr.  The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and House, and by July 1, 1993 Governor Thomas R. Carper signed the bill into law.

In the twenty-five years since our name change, the university has continued to grow tremendously. By comparison, the fall 1993 enrollment was 3,301 and in 2017 the enrollment was 4.648. In 1993 the college had 178 faculty members, of whom 61% held doctorates. Today the university has 212 faculty members and 89% hold doctorates. In terms of infrastructure the campus grew from 21 buildings to 33 and today comprises 3 campuses.  Lastly, in twenty-five years we grew from having no doctoral programs to five!

In short, remarkable achievements have been accomplished in such a brief time.  As we embark on a new presidency under Dr. Wilma Mishoe, I look forward to seeing how much further this university will go.

To read the university's statement on our anniversary, check out this article: 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Back into the basement - Architectural drawings

Well, I'm back at it again! Did I ever imagine I would spend so much time exploring the basements and hidden corridors of DSU's buildings? No, I did not. But I must say that I'm having fun, and my inner-vampire is satisfied.

This summer I am partnering with the office of Capital Planning & Environment Sustainability to make sense of a room full of architectural drawings.  The story goes that for years (perhaps decades), after each construction or renovation project was completed, the project drawings were chucked into this room with no rhyme or reason. Today, the room is packed to the gills with battered and decaying drawings.

Each time the university needs to make physical changes to a building, it is nearly impossible to find the appropriate drawings.  That's where librarians can help. Using the paper handling skills and knowledge of records description or "cataloging" that I know as an archivist, I am able to jump in.

I've been working on this project for the past month. At first it seemed daunting, and I didn't know where to start. By picking one section of the room and focusing on just one box at a time, I have been able to make good headway. The room already looks drastically different from the picture above.  Check back at the end of the summer and hopefully I'll have an updated photo of the finished result.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Laws Hall Time Capsule

Big Day, Today! A small gathering of administrators and contractors met this morning to remove a time capsule from the cornerstone of Laws Hall.  After resting behind the wall for 56, the contents were finally revealed.

It was  tough work to crack open the soldered-shut box, but it served to build the anticipation.
      "If the ghost of Lydia Laws comes out I'm gone," someone joked. Turning to me, "I like you so I might save you."
      "As long as it's not bones, I"m good," said another.
      "Yeah, right! It's the campus turtle or something."
      "There's a snake in there!"

But of course the findings were a lot more mundane. No snakes, bones, or ghosts. Found within was an Echo publication, Hornet newspaper, commencement program, Baccalaureate program, course catalog, and a program for the dedication of Laws Hall. While I'm disappointed by the lack of trinkets or personal notes, I had a good day. The excitement was a reminder of why I love my job.  From one day to the next, I never know what adventure may come.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Lights Out at Laws Hall

Tomorrow afternoon from 1:00 to 3:00, we will be saying goodbye to a much loved residential hall. Laws Hall, constructed in 1962, is slated to be demolished this summer to make room for a new dormitory. You are invited to join us for this last opportunity to enter the building and to take a trip down memory lane. Refreshments will be served.  Hope to see you there!

Yesterday, I, as the archivist, scavenged the building to transfer a few last treasures. Among them are a portrait of Lydia P. Laws,, the "Lovely Ladies of Laws Hall" welcome sign that hung over the entryway, a key box with building keys, RA log books, and a small amount of records. Do you have records or photographs of Laws hall? I would love to meet with you tomorrow.