Black Space Project Update

One of the best resources that I have had while doing this research project was one that I found through the directors of the Ancient Campus, Dr. Susan Kern and Kimberly Renner. Dr. Kern, who is the executive director and has an extensive knowledge of the history of William and Mary, allowed me to use what they colloquially call “The Book.” The book is really a misnomer, though, because “the book” is really a binder.

This binder, of which only two exist, holds copies of primary documents that date all the way back to William and Mary’s inception. It includes meeting notes, student and faculty honor board trials, newspaper articles, and more. It holds a wealth of insight into what William and Mary was like in it’s early days.

Since my project is mostly focusing on the relationship that William and Mary has with African Americans, I was particularly concerned with the mention of slaves in the book. One entry that I found interesting was a case hearing of a house keeper named Maria Diggs before the president and masters of William and Mary. Miss Diggs was accused by students of stealing food from the school kitchens and “interesting the key’s of the store room to the slaves,” giving them “free ingress and egress.”

I really found this interesting because it shoes some of the relationship dynamics between the students and slaves at William and Mary. It was clear from this case that the slaves at William and Mary were a part of the community, but were expected to remain in the background as support staff. The students that brought this case against Maria Diggs seemed infuriated that she allowed the slaves to have so much access and independence. It painted a great picture of how African Americans were exploited at the college during this era.