Scarlet & Black: An Exploration of the African-American and Native American Experience at Rutgers

The Scarlet and Black Project is a historical exploration of the experiences of two disenfranchised populations, African Americans and Native Americans, at Rutgers University. Its initial work begins with Scarlet and Black, Volume 1: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, which traces the university’s early history, uncovering how the university benefited from the slave economy and how Rutgers came to own the land it inhabits.  

The project is undertaken by the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History, which was created in 2015. The Committee was charged with seeking out the untold story of disadvantaged populations in the university’s history and recommending how Rutgers can best acknowledge their influence. The committee worked to trace the university’s early history and its relationship with local African-American and Native-American communities.

Findings

Rutgers joins other colonial-era colleges in confronting this history, including Georgetown, Yale, Brown, and Harvard. The committee worked to create a fuller picture of Rutgers’ history as the university celebrated its 250th anniversary and reflected on a familiar story: the founding by leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church, the role of benefactor Colonel Henry Rutgers and the university’s identity as a land-grant institution.

Scarlet and Black puts that history in a new context by bringing into the light the founders’ connections to slavery and the story of the Native Americans whose displacement was key in helping the university thrive.

The book, Scarlet and Black, Volume 1: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, brings out of the shadows the story of Will, a slave who laid the foundation of Old Queens. The research also reveals that abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth and her parents were owned by the family of Rutgers’ first president Jacob Hardenbergh.

The Committee

Chair

Deborah Gray White, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History, Rutgers University–New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, Department of History

Director of Research

Marisa Fuentes, Associate Professor, Rutgers–New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, Department of History

Committee Members

Carolina Alonso Bejarano, Lecturer, Rutgers University–Newark, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Women’s Studies

Sonia Brown, Part-time Lecturer, Graduate School of Social Work–New Brunswick

Paul Clemens, Professor, Rutgers–New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, Department of History

John Coakley, Professor of Church History, New Brunswick Theological Seminary

Thomas Frusciano, University Archivist, Rutgers University Libraries

Dionne Higginbotham, Student, Rutgers–New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, Human Resource Management Major

Denajah Hoffman, Student, Rutgers–New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, Anthropology Major

John Keene, Associate Professor, Rutgers–Newark, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of English

Felicia McGinty, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Rutgers–New Brunswick

Richard Murray, Part-time Lecturer in English, Assistant Director for Marketing and Communications, University Undergraduate Admissions, Rutgers–New Brunswick

Jomaira Salas, Graduate Student and Fellow, Rutgers–New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology

Karen Stubaus, Rutgers University Vice President for Academic Affairs and Administration and Professor, Rutgers–New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, Department of American Studies

Monica Torres, Student, Rutgers–New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, Latino and Caribbean Studies and Women's and Gender Studies Double Major

Camilla Townsend, Professor, Rutgers–New Brunswick, School of Arts and Sciences, Department of History

Staff Member

Alexis Biedermann, Senior Executive Associate, Rutgers–New Brunswick Office of the Chancellor