Black Space: Mapping William and Mary’s Relationship with African Americans

During the Fall of 2016, I took a class that met in the Wren basement. I remember the way that I felt first entering that classroom- descending the stairs into the cool, dark space in which I would be learning. There was a sense of pride in knowing that I was learning in the very same building that the likes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington embodied. Halfway through the semester, though, I learned from a friend in the Spotswood program that my basement classroom was once a slave kitchen. I began to think of this space in a new way- as a site of exploitation, and a black space on our predominately white campus. As the semester went on, I began to think about the other black spaces on this campus- the places where African Americans learned and lived within this predominately white space, and the significance of these spaces within the context of the landscape that is Colonial Williamsburg. Furthermore, I started to think about ways that the story of African Americans at the College of William and Mary could be told through the spaces that African Americans have inhabited over the course of William and Mary’s three hundred year history. These spaces include the house of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc, The Hugh Long Willis Library in the School of Education, and the Lemon and Hardy Halls. With my research project, Black Space, I aim to map out William and Mary’s relationship with the African American community from exploitation in the Wren Building memorialization in Lemon and Hardy halls. I plan to use the resources on campus in the Swem archives as well as other research on these spaces. What I hope to achieve in the end is a digital map of the black spaces on campus that also acts as an archive of the relationship that William and Mary has had with African Americans over the years.