Pathways to Diversity: Sharing the Story of Integration at Four Southern Colleges and Universities

by Cindy Long


Librarian educators from Centre College, Rollins College, Furman University and Washington and Lee University gathered at Centre in August to present the results of their collective scholarly research, “Pathways to Diversity: Sharing the Story of Integration at Four Southern Colleges and Universities.” Their efforts were funded by Diversity and Inclusion Grants from the Associated Colleges of the South (ACS), an organization that supports 16 private liberal arts colleges in 12 states of the southeastern United States. 

Over the course of nearly five years and three ACS grant cycles, the researchers collected documents, images, stories, and artifacts related to the desegregation of their campuses. Led by librarians in collaboration with faculty, students and staff at their respective institutions, the goal of the project is to capture the often overlooked voices of those most impacted by desegregation.

The recognition that diverse voices were missing from their collections due to societal, university, library, and archival assumptions and practices in the past, guided their mission to find, gather, and provide access to institutional collections that tell the story of integration on Southern campuses by creating and publishing an open digital collection.               

“The collaboration for this project was crucial to the success of the work,” says Carrie Frey, director of library services for Centre’s Grace Doherty Library. “The four institutions had slightly different timelines and documentation, and the stories are unique to each institution and region. This has enriched the final product and lends another aspect to the materials we collected and continue to share through the final website.” 

Three of the four participating institutions were represented at the presentation. From Centre were Frey, Beth Morgan, archivist and Mary Girard, digital scholarship librarian; from Rollins was Rachel Walton, digital archivist; and Paula Kiser, assistant professor and digital scholarship librarian from Washington and Lee. Each presented part of the multi-faceted project, including when each school integrated, where they were in the process of collecting and digitizing the materials, and their processes for digital preservation, creating metadata and developing consent forms for contributors. 

Faculty and students from the participating institutions were also heavily involved in the project. 

“Andrea Abrams, vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion and associate professor of anthropology, and Amy Frederick, assistant professor of art history, helped conceive the project and were part of the original team that wrote the first proposal,” Frey explains. “They have both continued to be involved through their classes and subsequent grant proposals and final report writing.

“Students also have been involved, finding materials through Amy’s and Andrea’s classes, gathering oral histories in those classes, and helping to curate materials,” she continues. “Students and alumni also have been involved through work-study and internships.” 

The methodologies in terms of policies have been informed by and improved through the work done by these four colleges and have laid the groundwork for other institutions to gather and share their own histories. 

“We hope it will make us more aware of the materials and stories we are collecting, and we intend to continue working on collecting diverse voices from the past,” Frey concludes. 

Explore Pathways to Diversity for more information.