The Research

The Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History, consisting of faculty, staff, and student members from across the university, was formed to vigorously pursue the truth and examine the role that people of disadvantaged groups played in the founding and development of Rutgers University. The committee was also charged with making recommendations about how the university can best acknowledge their influences on our history. 

Under the direction of professors Deborah Gray White, Marisa Fuentes, and Camilla Townsend, undergraduate and graduate students embarked on the massive undertaking of piecing together the story of those lost from the pages of the university’s early history.

The Rutgers University Libraries Special Collections and University Archives contained a trove of documents that illuminated these stories, as did the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, whose church records were invaluable in the search. The researchers were also able to unearth new information in state and national archives in Trenton and Washington, D.C.

As the project continues with subsequent volumes, Committee members will expand and develop their research to map out the history as it relates to slavery and issues of race, moving us up to the present day of Rutgers University.  

Contributors and Researchers

Beatrice Adams is a third-year doctoral student in African American and African diaspora history at Rutgers University. She received an M.A. in social sciences from the University of Chicago and a B.A. in history from Fisk University. Her doctoral research examines African Americans’ relationship to the American South focusing on issues of identity, belonging, and migration.

Shaun Armstead received her B.A. in history from Auburn University. She is currently a second-year doctoral student in the history program at Rutgers University where she focuses on women’s transnational activism after World War II. 

Jesse Bayker is a Ph.D. candidate in history. He received a B.A. in history and LGBTQ studies from CUNY Brooklyn College in 2010. He studies women’s and gender history, with a particular focus on transgender history in the 19th century. He is currently completing his dissertation, “Before Transsexuality: Crossing the Borders of Gender in the United States, 1850–1960.”

Christopher Blakley is a doctoral student in the Department of History at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. His expertise is in early-American environmental history, the history of science, and Atlantic world slavery. His dissertation questions how interactions between enslaved Africans and nonhuman animals throughout the diaspora shaped imperialism and colonization in the 18th-century British Atlantic.

Kendra Boyd is a doctoral candidate in African-American history at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. She holds a B.S. in business administration from Wayne State University and studies black business and racial capitalism. She is completing her dissertation, “Freedom Enterprise: The Great Migration and Black Entrepreneurship in Detroit.”

Miya Carey is a Ph.D. candidate in her sixth year in the Department of History at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. She specializes in 20th-century African-American and women’s and gender history. Her dissertation, “'That charm of all girlhood’: African American Girlhood and Girls in Washington, D.C., 1930–1965,” explores shifting definitions of girlhood through an examination black girls’ social organizations and youth culture in the nation’s capital.

Kaisha Esty is a doctoral candidate in African-American and women’s and gender history at Rutgers. She holds a B.A. and M.Res. in American studies from the University of Nottingham, U.K. Currently in her fifth year, she is working on her dissertation, “‘A Crusade against the Despoiler of Virtue: Black Women, Social Purity, and the Gendered Politics of the Negro Problem.”

Marisa J. Fuentes is an associate professor at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, in the Departments of Women’s and Gender Studies and History. Her first book, Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence and the Archive (2016), explores the spatial, historical, and symbolic confinement enslaved women experienced in 18th-century Bridgetown, Barbados. Her research interests include gender and early modern slavery, critical historical methodologies, Black Atlantic history, and the links between the slave trade and capitalism. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright program, the Ford Foundation, Harvard’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture—with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Tracey Johnson graduated with her B.A. in history from the College of William and Mary in 2014. She is currently a second-year doctoral student in the Department of History at Rutgers. She is interested in the black arts movement, particularly the ways in which New York City museums served as spaces of activism during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.

Daniel Manuel is a third-year Ph.D. student in the women’s and gender history program. His research explores AIDS activism and policy in the U.S. South in the 1980s and 1990s. Prior to attending Rutgers, he earned his B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Jomaira Salas Pujols is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology at Rutgers University whose research is focused on higher education, race, and academic achievement for students of color. She studies various forms of resistance to structural racism on college campuses by analyzing campus protests and the everyday academic strategies of Blacks and Latinas in colleges and universities in the United States. Pujols uses mixed-methods and participatory action research to develop new epistemologies of underrepresented communities.

Brenann Sutter earned her B.A. in history and sociology from the University of California, San Diego, in 2010. In 2012, she completed her M.A. in history at New York University. Sutter is currently in the third year of her Ph.D. at Rutgers University, pursuing 20th-century American history with a concentration in women and gender. Her research explores the social and political negotiations between sexuality, citizenship, and consumerism.

Camilla Townsend is a professor of Native American history at Rutgers–New Brunswick. She is the author of several books, among them Pocahontas and the Powhatan Dilemma and American Indian History: A Documentary Reader. For her work on the history of indigenous peoples, she has received grants from the American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Pamela Walker is a second-year doctoral student specializing in African-American and women’s and gender history. She received her B.A. in history from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 2011 and M.A. in history from the University of New Orleans in 2015. She studies the intersections of motherhood, activism, and survival during the 20th-century black freedom struggle. Walker’s current research explores cross-racial antipoverty activism and civil rights participation during the 1960s in the American South and Northeast United States.

Deborah Gray White is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. She is author of Ar’n’t I A Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation SouthToo Heavy a Load: Black Women in Defense of Themselves, 1894–1994; several K–12 textbooks on U.S. history; and Let My People Go: African Americans 1804–1860 (1999). Her edited works include Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower, a collection of personal narratives written by African-American women historians that chronicle the entry of black women into the historical profession and the development of the field of black women’s history. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, a coauthored text, is her most recent publication. As a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and as a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow, White conducted research on her newest book, Lost in the USA: Marching for Identity from the Promise Keepers to the Million Mom March.

Meagan Wierda is a second-year Ph.D. student jointly interested in the history of slavery and the history of medicine in the United States during the 19th century. Her interests center on questions of race, embodiment, and knowledge production. She examines how African-American abolitionists mounted a specifically scientific challenge to slavery in the decades leading up to the Civil War. Before coming to Rutgers, Wierda earned an M.A. in history from Concordia University (Montréal) and a B.A. in history and lettres françaises from the University of Ottawa.

Caitlin Wiesner is a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of History at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. She earned her B.A. with highest honors in history and women’s and gender studies at the College of New Jersey in 2015. She specializes in 20th-century U.S. women’s history, in particular the history of sexual violence and anti-rape activism. Her current research focuses on the ways African-American women responded to professionalization, institutionalization, and Black Nationalism within anti-rape organizations.