By: Macey Shambery, Bicentennial Intern, Class of 2019, Public Affairs, Bloomington
I decided to research the history of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center (NMBCC). As a freshman last year and even this year as a sophomore, I felt like I didn’t know the history of the building. In addition, I felt like others didn’t either. My goal for this project was to uncover the history of the NMBCC, and the events that led to its creation.
Initially, I was able to find general information about the center’s history and conception. When it came time to dive deeper, however, I found that more detailed information was hard to find. I utilized different services offered by IU Archives and used online resources and professional networks to try to find additional information that I needed.
What I noticed is that some essential information was not properly preserved for the use of future generations.
At the archives, I learned how to maneuver through the online database to find the collection boxes that I needed to look at, as well as other mechanisms to find information. The University Archives is a great resource for all students. The staff was very helpful and introduced me to different resources. For instance, there is a staff registry and bulletin for the university that I used to find information on some of the staff at the black culture center.
Without the help of the archives staff, I wouldn’t have known about the registry and the other sources of information that are available at the archives.
In addition, I found that it was difficult to find the student perspective on historical events and the perspectives of students on campus around the time of the creation of the Black Culture Center. The center was created during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Black students at IU wanted a place where they felt welcome, and they wanted more representation on campus.
As I explored these issues, I soon realized that the administration’s correspondence regarding black student matters was recorded better than the student experience and perspectives.
I think that the student matters were not archived as well because the administration at the time was not welcoming to the opinions of students deemed “radical.” From the late 1930s, students have organized on campus to protest racial inequality, wars, and human rights. Unfortunately, the university is missing a profound amount of information on several student groups and leaders.
For instance, a game-changing student organization, the Interracial Commission, was started in 1935 to unite students against racism. The group sponsored studies, programs, and several conventions to spread knowledge about racial injustice. Regrettably, the university does not have documentation on this group.
To work through the lack of student perspectives, I reached out to a few individuals who were influential in the creation of the center. I ended up scheduling a video conference with Mr. Keith Parker, an IU alumni, who was a social activist on campus during the 1960s when there was a student push for racial tolerance and equality. Also, I planned meetings with other alumni who were present on campus or had a relative on campus that worked at the center.
From the interviews, I learned about the day-to-day lives of black students, the impact the Civil Rights Movement had on IU’s campus, and how IU worked to improve its race relations with all students of color. These connections helped me tremendously, and I’m grateful for the assistance of everyone who helped me with my research.
For my final project, I decided to do a timeline. I felt that a timeline would encompass the chronological events and steps it took to create the center, as well as various changes in name, location, and directorship. I wanted to make my final project as thorough as possible to capture the full picture of the center. It was very important to me to make sure that everything that I presented was accurate and portrayed the center completely and in the best light.
In addition, I decided to write some supplementary blog posts. I understood that I wouldn’t be able to go into too much detail by using just the timeline software. With my blog posts, I wanted to dig a bit deeper and provide a lot of unknown information on certain topics with the center. A few of the subjects that I wrote about were housing for black students, social activism during the time the center was created, and the center’s support for students.
My experience with researching the center has made me realize that the names behind the buildings on campus are important. We should know about Marcellus Neal, Herman Briscoe, Frances Marshall, and the countless individuals who have left an impact on our campus.
There is a lot of information about IU that everyone should know. Obviously, it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect everyone to literally know everything about IU’s history, but it is reasonable to try to research various areas of the campus, and present the information clearly so everyone has access to this important historical information.
Through my research, I am so proud of the work that I have put in and all that I have accomplished. I am proud of figuring out the dates for the center’s directors. In some cases, the dates of service for directors was vague and inconsistent. I worked very hard to find all the directors of the center, and the years that they led the center.
Furthermore, I am happy with my ability to familiarize myself with the archives and efficiently use the resources that were available to me. This has been a long semester filled with research and meetings.
I feel like I have accomplished so much.