Scarlet and 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 work continues with Scarlet and Black Volume II: Constructing Race and Gender at Rutgers, 1865-1945, which provides new context for the lives of Rutgers’ first African American students, the "forerunner generation" to the Civil Rights activists of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Volume II also examines how concepts related to race and gender evolved during the 20th century at Rutgers College and its newly created women’s college. The upcoming third volume will focus on student activism and the contemporary history of ​students of color from World War II to the present.

The committee was charged with seeking out the untold story of disadvantaged populations in the university’s history.

The project is undertaken by the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History, which was created in 2015 by Rutgers University–New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards. With his guidance, 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. Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History Deborah Gray White chairs that Committee, which comprises prominent faculty, staff, and students.

The Scarlet and Black Project intends to provide a fuller record of Rutgers University by adding to its chronicles the experiences of African Americans and Native Americans—peoples whose experiences are often lost in the pages of history.


About the images above, left to right:

  • Paul Robeson was the first African American to play for the Rutgers football team. Courtesy of Special Collections, Rutgers University
  • Title page of A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African Prince, as Related by Himself. His autobiography is considered the first published by an African in Britain.
  • Sylvia Dubois, with her daughter, Elizabeth c. 1883. Photograph from the Women’s Project of New Jersey Records, Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.
  • Julia Baxter Bates' yearbook photograph and bio describes Baxter as gifted in public speaking as well as an academically rigorous student interested in pursuing a teaching career. Courtesy of Special Collections, Rutgers University