Quair yearbook

Quair 1944 yearbook Veronica Mary Henriksen senior photo.jpg

Veronica Mary Henriksen, yearbook photo from Quair

Veronica Henriksen was one of the earliest black students at the New Jersey College for Women. The recently published book The Douglass Century: Transformation of the Women’s College at Rutgers University by Kayo Denda, Mary Hawkesworth, and Fernanda Perrone provides a listing of the names of NJC’s earliest African American students, which helped guide our own research. However, Veronica Henriksen, who graduated in 1944, is curiously missing from the cohort of women listed in The Douglass Century. It is not clear if this omission was a simple oversight or if the authors did not read Henriksen as a black woman. After all, she had fair skin and some European facial features. However, census and newspaper records suggest that Henriksen and her family identified as black (or at least multiracial). This exhibit details how we came to identify Henriksen in the archive, our decision to name her as a black woman, and aspects of her life not covered in our book chapter “Profiles in Courage” in Scarlet and Black, Volume 2.

Quair 1944 yearbook-cover.jpg

Quair 1944 yearbook cover

Our search for the black women, non-black women of color, and Jewish women at NJC began with the college’s yearbook, called Quair. Issues of Quair have been preserved by the Rutgers Special Collections and University Archives as part of the Rutgers University Yearbook Collection.

Phenotype, last name, and how an individual student was racialized in the yearbook became the set of criteria that we employed in identifying these women. Did the woman look black or nonwhite? Does her last name suggest Jewish or Latin American heritage? Did her yearbook description suggest that she was racially or ethnically othered? Students for whom this answer was “yes” became part of our dataset of women that we marked for further research. Veronica Henriksen was one of this group of students.