Scarlet and Black is the title of the project undertaken by the Committee on Enslaved and Disenfranchised Populations in Rutgers History, created in 2015 by Rutgers University–New Brunswick Chancellor Richard L. Edwards. With his guidance, the committee was charged with seeking out the untold story of disadvantaged populations in the university’s history and recommending how Rutgers can best acknowledge their influence.
The committee is chaired by Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of History Deborah Gray White and composed of prominent faculty, staff, and students. Its exploration has resulted in an initial work, Scarlet and Black, Volume 1: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, published by Rutgers University Press.
The findings in the book raise complex questions for the university to consider as we begin our introspection and recognition of the past. Volume 1 covers the first several decades of Rutgers history, which reveals that some of our earliest founders and benefactors were involved in the slave trade or slavery economy. From the research for the book, we also know that the college benefited from Native American Removal, breaking ground in a land once occupied by the Lenni Lenape. In the other volumes to be written, the story will continue to explore our history up to the present day.
On the creation of the committee, Chancellor Edwards wrote “to truly praise Rutgers, we must honestly know it; and to do that, we must gain a fuller understanding of it.” With Scarlet and Black, we have begun to do that.