African Americans are often underrepresented in American archival collections, a fact which the archival profession acknowledges. In her 2012 article “The Heart of the Matter: The Development of African American Archives” in The American Archivist, Rabia Gibbs states:
“To develop authentic, sustainable, and meaningful initiatives, we must set aside our assumptions, examine the diversity within diverse groups, and modify our objectives to incorporate the full range of perspectives available within these respective communities. Diverse and comprehensive representation in different types of collections is a luxury taken for granted by the social majority represented in mainstream archives; it is a right that should be afforded to the groups to which we, as a profession, aspire to give a broader voice.”
While the Indiana University Archives holds records from the Office of African American Affairs, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and faculty members such as Camilla Williams of the Jacobs School of Music, documentation about the African American experience at Indiana University is often sparse. It is through broad administrative collections such as the President’s Office and the Dean of the Faculties records that researchers are sometimes able to fill in some of the gaps.
Recently processed, one of the Dean of Faculties collections has a plethora of information ranging from 1946-1982 (in particular from the late 1960s to the 1970s). It includes records predominantly from the tenure of Ralph C. Collins (1959-1963), Ray L. Heffner, Jr. (1964-1966), Joseph L. Sutton (1966-1968), Joseph R. Hartley (1968-1969), and Henry H. H. Remak (1969-1974) and consists of correspondence, reports, committee files, minutes, and memos which document the development of new departments and policies, administrative policies and procedures concerning faculty members, and curriculum development. Of particular relevance to African American history at IU are records related to the development of academic and cultural programs in response to the implementation of diversity and affirmative action policies at the university.
As an example, files within the Dean of Faculties records document the development of Afro-American Affairs at Indiana University including courses and student organizations. As affirmative action policies were introduced, Indiana University sought to attract more black faculty and increase student enrollment, while at the same time ensuring that they felt comfortable and engaged within the campus community. As outlined by a pamphlet from 1973, this emerged through the development of the Black Culture Center, the Afro-American Tutorial Program, and student organizations such
as the Soul Revue which became one of the three student groups to make up the African American Arts Institute. The institute now includes the African American Dance Company and the African American Choral Ensemble. Today these three accomplished ensembles continue to perform in the community, and travel regionally and even abroad.
As archivists we are always trying to diversify our collections. If you happen to know of any manuscripts that relate to student life (in particular to the life of minorities) at Indiana University please do not hesitate to contact the University Archives and consider donating!