In celebration of Black History Month, College Library is featuring an exhibition of images from the University Archives which showcase African-American history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Curated by Harvey Long, a PhD student in the School of Library & Information Studies (the iSchool), the display on the 2nd floor features eleven large-format posters of images he selected. In addition, there are three didactic panels Long created that provide context for the history of African-Americans on campus. These panels include a timeline covering the years 1840 to 1988 and a selection of smaller images highlighting achievements by black students, along with descriptions of the racial climate on campus. In an article for the alumni magazine On Wisconsin, Long noted that with increased calls for greater diversity and inclusion, the university community needs a better understanding of black students’ long, complicated history at the UW and how race played a key role in their isolation from campus activities.
One of the images features William Exum, who was the first African-American to make the varsity football team in 1930. He went on to coach a number of sports teams at Kentucky State Univeristy and was the manager of the United States track & field teams at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Also on display is a portrait of Mary Hinkson, who gained fame as one of the first black dancers to join Martha Graham’s dance company. Mary, who had never studied dance before enrolling at the University of Wisconsin, worked with Margret H’Doubler, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1946 and a master’s in 1947.
The misperception exits that African-American students didn’t really have a presence on campus until the civil rights protests of the 1960s, and while the exhibition does include images of the strike by the Black Peoples Alliance in 1969 and the protests in 1973 over the closing of the Afro-American and Native American Cultural Centers, it demonstrates that the contributions of black students, staff, and faculty began over a hundred years earlier with the matriculation of William Noland in the 1870s.
Bringing the display into the present day are two images from the Black Lives Matter protest and die-in that occurred at College Library in December 2014 and a poster featuring all of the events happening on campus in association with Black History Month. College Library would like to extend a special thank you to Harvey Long for curating the exhibition and to David Null and Cat Phan of University Archives for expediting high resolution scans of several of the selected images. The display will continue through the month of February.