Announcing the SCL Initiative at Tufts

The Shenley Four: Herbert Barrow, Theodore Carter, Lucien Ayers, and Jester Hairston, February 10, 1929.
The Shenley Four: Herbert Barrow, Theodore Carter, Lucien Ayers, and Jester Hairston, February 10, 1929.

As we begin 2024 we at the Tufts Archival Research Center (TARC) are excited about our partnership in  the Slavery, Colonialism, and their Legacies at Tufts University (SCL) initiative. The SCL initiative is a university-wide collaborative effort that seeks to employ interdisciplinary research, public programming, and community partnerships to uncover the history of slavery and colonialism within and beyond Tufts. In addition to the Tufts Archival Research Center, SCL is sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at Tufts, the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and the Office of the Provost. 

As the SCL initiative begins its investigation, the TARC collections, including both University records and manuscript collections, will serve as a crucial and important cornerstone for the project. Collections of interest and topics of investigation will include: 

  • The historic Black and Afro-Native communities of Charlestown, Medford, Somerville, Boston, and Grafton and their relationship to the university, including those individuals documented by the West Medford African-American Remembrance Project.
  • The Universalist religious tradition upon which Tufts was founded, and the tradition’s relationship to slavery, anti-slavery, and social movements, revealed in part through the records of the Trustees of Tufts University. 
  • The long presence of African-descended and indigenous students on Tufts’ campus, such as Charles Sumner Wilson, Forester Blanchard Washington, A1909, and Jester Hairston, A29, a respected and notable African-American composer, arranger, singer, conductor, and actor. 
  • The university’s historical ties to racial slavery, the slave trade, and colonialism in Massachusetts and across the Atlantic world, as demonstrated in the family and business papers of the university’s early trustees. 

Although the SCL initiative is a new venture here at Tufts, the origins of the project were first planted by Gerald Gill, a beloved Professor of African American history at Tufts, whose efforts to collect and document the experiences of students and faculty of color at Tufts led to the first Another Light on the Hill exhibit, staged in 1988. 

The SCL initiative builds on many years of work within TARC, including the acquisition, processing and cataloging of the Gill papers and the creation of the Another Light on the Hill digital exhibit. Additionally, over the last seven years, TARC has worked with the Tufts DataLab and Professors Kendra Field and Kerri Greenidge to build the African American Trail Project at Tufts (AATP), a project that maps African American and Afro-Native public history sites within the Tufts campus and across greater Boston and Massachusetts.

Over the next several years, the SCL project will expand these initiatives through scholarly research involving collaborators from across the university, with renewed focus on Tufts’ institutional history. We welcome inquiries and questions through our Ask an Archivist service or via email to