The University of Denver (DU), a private college founded in 1864–12 years before Colorado became a state–has recently begun to grapple with its complex and sometimes fraught histories with alumni of color. The DU Archives has partnered over the past five years with the Sistah Network, a student group formed by Black women faculty to support Black women graduate students, as its founder, Dr. Nicole Joseph, wished to focus specifically on the history of the University's Black alumnae. Since 2013, the Archives has completed several oral histories with alumnae from the 1960s, and have recovered the names, graduation dates, and some documentary history of all Black alumnae prior from 1900-1945–43 women in total. A recent exhibit, entitled Seeking Grace, honors these women, and is named for Grace Mabel Andrews, the first Black woman to graduate from the University with a BA in 1908. The exhibit is an outgrowth of a project begun in 2013, as a partnership with the faculty co-lead of a student group, the Sistah Network, created to support Black women graduate students at the University of Denver, hoping to honor Black women graduates in advance of the University’s upcoming 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial). This article will use this project as an example of how we as archivists address several issues common to “diversity” initiatives in archives: that many begin and end with “firsts” or “significants,” and they often do not explicitly center the communities they seek to document in the process.
Kate Crowe is the Curator of Special Collections and Archives at the University of Denver.
"Seeking Grace: Reconstructing the History of African American Alumnae at the University of Denver,"
Journal of Western Archives: Vol. 10:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/westernarchives/vol10/iss1/3