Unearthing Towson’s History Project

Since the summer of 2019, a team of students, faculty members and staff have dedicated themselves to uncovering, understanding and explaining the history and experience of diversity at Towson University.

Founded as the Maryland Normal School in 1866, Towson University was a product of Maryland’s segregated school system and remained racially segregated until after the United States Supreme Court struck down racial segregation of public schools in 1954.

FRom Cook Library ARchives

Integration at Towson State College

The faculty and administration of Towson State College are deeply conscious of their responsibility to strive for full integration of every aspect of the college at the earliest possible moment. They view with satisfaction its record in this area in the past. They promise a vital effort to fulfill their moral obligation to every person or group who petitions the college whether it be a student seeking admission, a scholar seeking the privilege of teaching, a worker seeking employment, or an athletic team seeking a contest. We conceive of this moral obligation as a mandate, more binding than a mere law, that an institution of higher education must be in the vanguard of all institutions in destroying social barriers based on race, religion, or national origin.

Discrimination can exist in a college or university on many levels. The most obvious areas where it can be found are in the recruitment and admission of students, the employment of professional and non-professional staff, and in the non-academic functions of the college both internal and external. 

“Report on Integration at Towson State College,” February 21, 1966, Towson University Archives, Records of the Maryland Board of Trustees of the State Universities and Colleges, 1963-1988, UA 00003, Box 2, Folder 3.

Even after the university began to integrate in 1955 African Americans struggled to find full equality. Black students, faculty, administrators, and their white allies fighting against the structural racism and racial prejudices of the period worked exhaustively to make TU their own as well through the second half of the twentieth century and still today.

Inspired by efforts at other American colleges and universities to come to terms with a legacy of racial inequality in American high education, a team of Towson University researchers has begun a multi-year project to investigate and publicize this institution’s exclusionist past and its ongoing efforts to diversify.

Goals

The Unearthing Towson’s History Project is an interdisciplinary collaborative effort that centers students as researchers and interpreters and connects alumni and the wider community to the university.

The team’s goals are:

  • Investigate the history of intersectional diversity including not only race and male/ female gender but sexuality, complex gender, class, and ethnicity
  • Gather the stories of current and past Towson students, faculty, and staff’s experience with diversity
  • Record oral histories of those associated with Towson University’s past
  • Digitize and make resources relating to diversity at Towson University available to the wider community
  • Share these stories with the wider public through online exhibits, blog posts, and resources
  • Become a resource for the wider Towson University community to learn about and preserve its past
  • Partner with area institutions to situate Towson University’s experience in the wider region

Tell your story

Did you attend Towson University? Were you a faculty or staff member? We’d love to .  

Partners

The project is a collaboration between the Albert S. Cook Library Special Collections and University Archives, the Department of History, and the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity with the support of the Office of the President and the Office of the Provost. Unearthing Towson's History Project is a member of the Universities Studying Slavery

Project Team

Steering Committee

Christian Koot, History Department
Ashley Todd-Diaz, Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections and University Archives
Brian Jara, Inclusion, and Institutional Equity

Faculty Researchers

Akim Reinhardt, History Department

Student Researchers

Ally Lawrence '21
Catherine Campbell 19
Peyton Cleary 20 
Sara Cantler 19
Jasmine Thomas ’19