Black Women at VT Oral History Project (Ms1995-026)


Black Women at VT Oral History Project (Ms1995-026)


The Black Women at Virginia Tech History Project is a multi-phase research and educational project that involves identification of the first black women students, staff, and faculty at Virginia Tech and the collection of their oral history narratives. The interviews focus on the entry experience and the interviewees' perceptions of the climate and attitudes within the university community particularly as pertains to race and gender. Another phase of the project involves the design and execution of program events to enhance communication within and beyond the university community.
The Black Women at Virginia Tech History Project, a multi-phase research and education program, involves:

  • The identification of the first black women--student, staff and faculty--to enter the university.
  • The collection of their narratives of that entry experience.
  • The design and execution of program events to enhance communication, understanding, and relationships within the university's culturally diverse community.
The project will increase knowledge about the women's community, celebrate the racial integration of that community, and provide deeper insight into the issues and opportunities inherent in striving to achieve an open, diverse, and just educational environment. The term "black" is used here to designate those United States citizens who are the descendants of slaves, ancestorially residing in the country of approximately 400 years.

The three-phase research component of the project got underway fall term, 1994 under the auspice of The Women's Center in collaboration with the University Archive in the University Libraries. Two factors supported The Women's Center's investment of a considerable amount of its limited resources in this project. First, grounded in a philosophy of feminism, it was important that the center's account of history of campus women recognize and document racial diversity. Second, administrative records only began to account for the racial identity of its members in 1985. To begin a study to build an appropriate account of the history of university women, the center and the University Archive undertook archival photographic searches and networking activities.

Phase I of this on-going project identifies the first black women entrants by name, entry date, role, historic and current photographs, and current address. Preliminary findings suggest that black women may have first entered the university community as laundresses and maids. They also indicate that the first black coeds entered fall term, 1966. University Extension Services hired the first black professional woman, followed in the early 1970s with the appointment of the first academic faculty. The early 1970s also brought black women administrative personnel to campus.

Phase II consists of the collection of entry experience narratives through individual, in-depth interviews. Several preliminary interviews have been carried out, establishing a substantial basis for semi-structured interviews with approximately 30 women.

Finally, Phase III will involve evaluative research to assess the impact of the education component of the project. The education component proceeds concurrent with, and draws directly upon, the research outcomes. Educational activities began in the spring term, 1995 with a Women's Month 1995-sponsored round table discussion of project aims and progress.

The education effort will involve a wide variety of programs, carried out by campus and community organizations as well as academic departments. Some of the activities will be oral, written, audio-visual, and video-taped presentations, seminars, round table discussions, exhibitions, and in tandem study and actions programs. Study and action programs will forge and sustain diverse coalitions of university members who design and carry out actions to identify and eradicate barrier to cross-racial cooperation and associations in all spheres of the university.

Elaine Carter initiated the Black Women's History Project at the Virginia Tech Women's Center in the fall of 1994.



Bibliographic Citation

Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech

Rights Holder

Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech

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