It is always thrilling when a patron walks through the front door of the archives with a question on the tip of their tongue. They are typically on a mission and hope that I can point them directly to the answers they seek. Unfortunately, due to the youth of the DSU archives and the amount of backlogged collections, answers are often elusive.
But yesterday the story unfolded differently when Ms. Yvonne came to see us. She was seeking evidence of Joseph R. Fugett’s presence at the State College for Colored Students.
In the early 20th century Mr. Fugett was a 20-something African American man who was paving the way for black youths in the world of education. He had been educated at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he attained a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. From there he ventured to Tuskegee Institute in Alabama where he was an animal husbandry instructor. After that he made his way to Dover, Delaware where he was an agriculture professor under the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 which served to provide vocational education to future farmers.
Ms. Yvonne knew all of this before she even arrived at Delaware State University. However, knowing the information is one thing, and seeking to determine the impact Mr. Fugett had at the State College for Colored Students in 1919 is something entirely different. Ms. Yvonne wanted to be sure that special man she had loved as a child was somehow still present at Delaware State University and appreciated by others.
I thought for sure she would be disappointed, but after spending an entire afternoon and exhausting nearly all of the materials pertaining to the State College for Colored Students, her exclamation of “I found it!! I found it,” rang out from the corner of the archives she was occupying.
She held a news article clipped from The State Sentinel in 1919. The article was an annual report of the college written by President William C. Jason, and it included a description of her grandfather’s work. It read, “We are under obligation also to the Commissioner of Education for the introduction of the course in vocational agriculture. A competent and progressive young man, Mr. J.R. Fugett, a graduate of Cornell University, with added experience in teaching and practices, was placed in charge of this new department.”
Ms. Yvonne was beaming and so excited she had jumped to her feet. Here was evidence that her grandfather was appreciated during his term, and here was evidence that he could continue to be remembered.
Ms. Yvonne’s experience was a pleasant reminder to me, Jasmine, and Dan that the archives business is not about remembering great men, but men who did great things however large or small. We thank Ms. Yvonne for passing an afternoon with us.
Written by Joy Scherry