William and Mary
Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library

The Special Collections Resource Center has a wealth of information about the College’s and Williamsburg’s history.  Start by reading the Center’s wiki entry on “The College and Slavery”, “African Americans at the College of William and Mary,” or a special index of the "The Flat Hat" that gathers articles, published between 1911 and 1975, related to African Americans. 

Take a look at our research topics list, including possible research project subjects based on the resources and collections available at Swem Library.

Librarian Beatriz Hardy put together a research guide to orient researchers to Special Collections' resources related to African Americans. Take a moment to browse the guide and the SCRC’s catalog. Feel free to contact Special Collections staff at if you have any questions. A guide to other Swem Library resources including books, databases, audiovisual material, and additional web resources is also available.

Special Collections staff also routinely put together exhibits featuring the College’s history, often exploring topics that would be of interest to Lemon Project scholars. “Slavery in Virginia,” on online exhibit created by Sarah Dorpinghaus and Sarah Erb, can be found here. The SCRC has an exhibit in the Marshall Gallery entitled “From ‘Separate but Equal’ to ‘With All Deliberate Speed’: Civil Rights in Public Education.”  The exhibit will be available until September 2011.  For a list of all current exhibits, please visit the Swem website.

“The World of Henry Billups: Jim Crow in Williamsburg”
Jody Allen, Visiting Professor of History

Henry Billups labored at William and Mary from 1888 until 1955, and he operated in two different worlds--on the campus he was the "Doctor of Boozeology"; at home he was a respected family man. This exhibit, on display until November 2011 in Swem Library’s Third Floor Rotunda Gallery, was curated by Professor Jody Allen's class "The World of Henry Billups." One part of the exhibit focuses on Billups, while three others explore the College, the community, and the struggle against change.

Terry L. Meyers, “Benjamin Franklin, the College of William and Mary, and the Williamsburg Bray School,” Anglican and Episcopal History 79 (December 2010), 368-393.

English professor Terry Meyers has recently conducted extensive research into the relationship between the Bray School – a free school in Williamsburg for free and enslaved blacks – and the College. 

"Integration at Work: The First Labor History of the College of William and Mary"

Students in a class taught by History Professor Cindy Hahamovitch collaborated on this study examining several aspects of racial and economic history at the College and in Williamsburg from before the restoration of the Colonial Capital to more contemporary times.

Integrating the College of William and Mary

Racial integration did not come easily to William and Mary, nor to the town of Williamsburg which did not admit black children to its all-white schools until 1964.1 This
report is an account of efforts made to integrate the College in the decade following the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The primary resource used in the research was the undergraduate
student newspaper The Flat Hat which, in my view, was diligent in reporting the relevant events. Consequently, much of what follows here presents the events of that period from
the student point of view. Other state and local newspaper accounts, the presidential papers of Davis Y. Paschall, and other archival records in the Earl Gregg Swem Library
were consulted when available.

Terry L. Meyers, “A First Look at the Worst: Slavery and Race Relations at the College of William and Mary” William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal 16 (April 2008), 1141-1168.

Terry Meyers published a short history of slavery and race relations at the College of William & Mary from its founding in 1693 to the current day in the hopes of inspiring further research. He synthesizes information both new and known from a variety of sources.  The paper started as a background paper for a resolution to be considered by the Faculty Assembly at William & Mary calling on the Provost to commission a full history of the subject.

1971 Commencement Speaker at William and Mary

Early in the 1970-71 academic year, the senior class sponsored a referendum to determine class preferences for their commencement speaker.  The list of potential speakers they proposed was John Lindsay, Margaret Meade, Ramsey Clark, Paul Ehrlich, Kingman Brewster, Harold Hughes, Charles Evers, and Mark Hatfield, with space for a write-in vote. 

Confederates on the Campus
“Dixie” and Secession

A long tradition at William and Mary football games, for many years, was the school band playing “Dixie.”  The practice was evidently not questioned until the week before the October 18, 1969 Homecoming Game, when two students protested on the Editorial Page of The Flat Hat:     


“The William and Mary U. Va. football game [last week] was a prime example of this institution’s faceless students.  On two occasions the school band played a tune that is indicative of the old racist south, the battle song of the confederate soldier “Dixie”.  . . . To the bigot, “Dixie” is a memory in American history that intrigues him.  It’s a song that makes him proud to be a racist; it’s a song that keeps him dreaming of the slavery Blacks underwent.  . . . Thoughts and actions of this sort should be abolished.”
Desegregation of Virginia Education Project (DOVE)
OId Dominion University, and Virginia’s academic libraries

The DOVE project was created to identify, locate, catalog and encourage the preservation of records that document Virginia’s school desegregation process. The scope of the project is records related to the desegregation of public and private schools in Virginia, grades K-12 and institutions of higher education. Librarian Beatriz Hardy of Swem Library has been instrumental in pursuing Dove’s initiatives here at the College.

The Maggie Lena Walker Project

 In the Spring of 2009, William & Mary Professor and former National Parks Service ranger Heather Huyck taught a class about Maggie Lena Walker, an early-twentieth-century black businesswoman from Richmond. While on a field trip, her students discovered boxes of forgotten papers related to Walker and her career. A major project is now underway to inventory, interpret, and preserve the newly discovered documents.

Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture

Publishers of erudite monographs and the William and Mary Quarterly. For cutting edge scholarship, check out their current publications and frequent colloquia.

The Williamsburg Documentary Project

The Williamsburg Documentary Project, created by American Studies Professor Arthur Knight, collects and preserves artifacts, documents, and memories of Williamsburg’s history in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The paper material collected as part of the project is available in the Special Collections Research Center at Swem Library and the oral histories are available through the W&M Digital Archive.  It includes a particularly rich representation of African American life and of special note are the dozens of oral history interviews conducted with black residents. Read the Project’s blog or peruse the digital archive.

The Middle Passage Project

Joanne Braxton, a professor of English, launched The Middle Passage Project in 1995 at the College.  The Project serves to explore the history and memory surrounding the transatlantic slave trade, its resounding effects on Africans in the Americas, and its representation in literature and the humanities.