Another Light on the Hill: Black students at Tufts – a new online exhibit
Posted on April 18, 2017 by Sari Mauro | Categories: exhibits, features | | |

“Although individual black alumni of Tufts have been duly recognized for their on-campus accomplishments, the overall experiences of black students, past and present, have largely remained unrecorded. This exhibit seeks to highlight the experiences of black students at Tufts over the course of the twentieth century.”

– Gerald Gill, Another Light on the Hill

Since the Gerald Gill Papers arrived here at Digital Collections and Archives last fall, we’ve been working to process and describe the collection. As we wrote earlier, we’ve also participated in the Center for Study of Race and Democracy symposium “The African American Freedom Trail Symposium at Tufts: The Past, Present, and Future of Black Boston” and developed a physical exhibit which can now be viewed in Tisch Library.  We’ve also been working to develop a new online exhibit based on Professor Gill’s work entitled Another Light on the Hill.
screen capture of Another Light on the Hill exhibit

















Professor Gill’s Another Light on the Hill was a long term project that developed over many years. First exhibited in 1988, the Another Light on the Hill exhibit sought to tell the often-overlooked story of black alumni. The physical exhibit was staged three separate times before 2002 when Professor Gill wrote a version of the Another Light on the Hill manuscript for publication in Tufts Magazine. A portion of the Another Light on the Hill exhibit is on permanent display at the Africana Center at Tufts University.

Most of the resources from the original exhibits were drawn from archival collections held by Digital Collections and Archives (DCA) at Tufts University. In 2007 DCA began a collaboration with Professor Gill to recreate the physical exhibit as a permanent digital exhibit. This work ceased when Professor Gill passed away suddenly in July 2007.

The project undertaken in this online exhibit is significant, both in topic and in extent and will be debuted in multiple iterations. This first iteration contains text written by Professor Gill and applicable images to accompany the text. We have purposefully and specifically maintained the voice and stylistic choices of Professor Gill’s manuscript.

Ultimately, DCA intends for this exhibit to stand as an introductory resource for all who are interested in the history of black faculty, staff, and students at Tufts University, with a descriptive timeline of events as well as associated biographical and topical pages. As such, updates will be made to exhibit items, text, structure, and content on a rolling basis.

Tufts students, alumni, and faculty interested in participating in expanding this exhibit are encouraged to contact Tufts Digital Collections and Archives.

Another Light on the Hill is one of the first of DCA’s digital exhibits to premiere in Tufts’ new exhibit format on This new software makes it easier to build and maintain exhibits and creates a more uniform and user-friendly browser experience. Most importantly, in the spirit of Another Light on the Hill, we hope to use this technology to help bring other overlooked stories to light.


The Gerald R. Gill Papers at Digital Collections and Archives
Posted on March 26, 2017 by Daniel Santamaria | Categories: events, exhibits, features, news | | |

Gerald R. Gill was a beloved faculty member in the History Department of Tufts University from 1980 to 2007. In those twenty-seven years he had a profound and lasting impact on the lives of his students and the Tufts community as a whole. This past fall Digital Collections and Archives accessioned nearly 150 boxes of material documenting Professor Gill’s life and work. The collection of papers, photographs, and digital files documents Gill’s teaching, research, and the lives and work of black faculty, staff, and students at Tufts.

Gerald R. Gill

Gerald R. Gill

Professor Gill was well known for his mentorship of his students, and for developing relationships that often extended beyond the students’ years at Tufts. He won numerous awards for teaching at Tufts and was twice named Massachusetts Professor of the year. Professor Gill was heavily involved with community service, working with students and student groups at Tufts and serving as a frequent commentator on events and topics involving Boston’s African American community on radio, television, and at community events. Professor Gill’s papers include hundreds of letters and photographs from students who thanked him for his mentorship or just provided updates about their lives. Gill also collected material on Tufts students, alumni, and faculty of color. The flyers, photographs, and documents in the collection demonstrate the powerful connections formed between Gill and the Tufts community.

Students on the Tufts Campus. Photograph from the Gerald R. Gill Papers.

Students on the Tufts Campus. Photograph from the Gerald R. Gill Papers.

Professor Gill’s scholarship focused on African American protest movements. His dissertation, Dissent, Discontent and Disinterest: Afro-American Opposition to the United States’ Wars of the Twentieth Century, evolved into published articles and a book project. At the time of his death, he was working on a history of African American protest in Boston, Struggling Yet in Freedom’ s Birthplace: Black Protest Activities in Boston, 1930-1972. Professor Gill’s work researching the African American community at Tufts resulted in “Another Light on the Hill” published in Tufts Magazine’s sesquicentennial issue, the first major history of African American undergraduates at Tufts. As President Bacow wrote in a message to the Tufts community after Professor Gill’s death, “helped us understand Tufts and its history in ways that many had not appreciated before.”

Beyond the Barricades Forum Materials, 1990

Beyond the Barricades Forum Materials, 1990

Professor Gill passed away suddenly in August 2007. In September 2016 his daughter, Ayanna Gill, donated nearly 150 boxes of records documenting his life and work to Tufts Digital Collection and Archives (DCA). Archives staff are currently working to process and describe the collection but an initial finding aid is available and the papers are open by appointment in the DCA reading room.

Beginning March 31st selections from the Gill Papers will be on exhibit in the Tisch Library lobby and a celebration of the Gerald Gill and Gill Papers will take place as part of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy’s symposium “The Past Present and Future of Black and Native Boston,” also on March 31st in Breed Memorial Hall. Digital Collections and Archives is also planning a long-term project to create an online exhibit based on Gerald Gill’s Another Light on the Hill, the first iteration of which will be available the week of March 27th. For more information on Gill Papers, please consult the finding aid or send us an email at

Jumbos in Protest: Student Activism at Tufts, 1965-2015
Posted on September 3, 2015 by Daniel Bullman | Categories: exhibits | | |

A new Digital Collections and Archives exhibit, “Jumbos in Protest: Student Activism at Tufts, 1965-2015,” is now on display on the second floor of the Tisch Library, near the entrance of the Tower Café. This exhibit of materials from DCA’s collections highlights a variety of student movements that took place on campus in the past five decades. Over the last fifty years, Tufts students have organized to protest apartheid in South Africa, American involvement in foreign wars such as Vietnam and Iraq, and for an end to discrimination against women and LGBT individuals, among numerous other causes.

Protest and social justice activism has been an integral part of Tufts history from the school’s foundation in 1852. The Universalists who founded and supported the College were steeped in a tradition of abolitionist activism.[1] Remnants of Tufts College’s involvement in the anti-slavery movement are still visible on campus today. If you take a walk past the Cousens Gymnasium, you may notice a stone with a placard dedicated to George Luther Stearns, an ardent abolitionist and supporter of Tufts. Stearns was famous for being one of the “Secret Six” who financed John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry.[2]

Strike Center on Medford campus, circa 1970

Strike Center on Medford campus, circa 1970

The standing display case features materials that cover the entire fifty-year span of the exhibit. Items range from photographs of the Vietnam War protests to rally flyers of anti-racist organizations. Some highlights of the exhibit are news articles about protests against the Gulf and Iraq wars in 1991 and 2003, a flyer from the Tufts Gay Community (TGC), and a list of demands from African American students in 1968.

The flat display case features items related to the anti-apartheid protests of the 1970s and ‘80s, as well as climate change activism of the recent past. The sit-in that took place at Ballou Hall this past spring happened almost thirty years to the day of a similar occupation by anti-apartheid protesters in 1985. Both events received extensive coverage in the Tufts Daily; articles from each sit-in are on display in this exhibit.


Students protesting Apartheid, April 29, 1978

Students protesting Apartheid, April 29, 1978

The exhibit was curated, designed, and installed by Dan Bullman, Archives and Research Assistant. It will be on display until January 2015. If you want to learn more about the history of student activism at Tufts, feel free to contact the DCA at You can also drop by our office on Level G of the Tisch Library from Monday-Friday 9 am-3:30 pm.

[1] Russell Miller, Light on the Hill, Volume I: A History of Tufts College 1852-1952 (Beacon Press: Boston, MA), 7-8.

[2] See: Otto Scott, The Secret Six: John Brown and the Abolitionist Movement (NYT Books: New York, NY) and Charles E. Heller, Portrait of an Abolitionist: A Biography of George Luther Stearns (Greenwood Press: Westport, CT).

The Order of the Coffee Pot Welcomes You!
Posted on September 2, 2015 by Rose Oliveira | Categories: events, exhibits, features | | |

For the original see Activities and organizations records, UA024.001.006.00008

For the original see Activities and organizations records, UA024.001.006.00008

The DCA cordially invites you to join the Order of the Coffee Pot! On September 5th as part of Tisch Library’s Freshman Open House, the Digital Collections and Archives (DCA) welcomes new students, their families, and all interested parties to explore Tufts traditions with coffee and iced tea, postcards and buttons, and an opportunity to win a Dunkin’ Donuts Gift card!

The Order of the Coffee Pot was one of the early secret societies at Tufts. As Russell Miller noted, secret societies at this time were equivalent to fraternities[1] and were not really secret. The Order of the Coffee Pot was exclusively created for upperclassmen in their last two years at Tufts[2] and was formed in 1858 as an offshoot of the Theta Delta Chi Fraternity.[3] Augustus E. Scott, a founding member of the order, recalled the genesis of the group in a 1906 celebration of the Kappa Charge.[3] He explains that after “students who were inclined to more studious things had gone to bed”[4] late night suppers would occur. Food for these late night meals was procured from locked pantries using shovels to extract cakes and pies, while eggs were had from hens located behind their dormitory. Coffee accompanied these treats, providing the basis for late night meetings, and the Order of the Coffee Pot was born. Members of the Order of Coffee Pot were given a silver badge engraved with a coffee pot and the Latin phrase “Quum nobis placeat, cujus referet” – which translates to “Since it pleases us, whose business is it?”[5] This badge was worn at all public occasions where coffee was served.[6] The order lasted for ten years, 1858-1868, eventually dwindling away.

In 1951, there was an attempt to revive the Order of the Coffee Pot as a student organization that intended to be truly secret and was formed “to foster good fellowship on the Hill.”[7] As reported in the Tufts Weekly, the new Order of the Coffee Pot was to be a self-perpetuating group manned by two members from the sophomore, junior, and senior classes. Based on a similar group in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the Order of the Coffee Pot was charged with publicizing school events in fun and entertaining ways. These secret members would be revealed at the end of their senior year in the Weekly and new members would be chosen from the freshmen class in secret.[8] Despite the good intentions, no exposé of the members was published in the Weekly; it appears that the Order did not get off the ground.

However, we at the DCA thought it was a perfect institution to revive. So on September 5th, in honor of good fellowship and Tufts traditions, we are having our own celebration. Although no treats will have been gathered with a shovel, nor hens robbed of their eggs, we will offer refreshments and a peek into other interesting traditions that occurred at Tufts. We will have a mini-exhibit in the Reading Room touching on some early traditions at Tufts like the Jackson College baby parties, the Horribles parade, the periodic dunking of freshmen at the Reservoir, and beanies and bows, just to name a few. Those who come to the exhibit can enjoy our specially created buttons and postcards and enter to win a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts, a New England tradition.

We look forward to meeting you and inducting you into the Order of the Coffee Pot!

[1] Russell Miller, Light on the Hill: A history of Tufts College 1852-1952 (Boston: Beacon Press Books, 1966), 384.
[2] Miller, 384.
[3] Nathan Marvin, “Kappa Charge: Its Founding & History,” Kappa Charge of Theta Delta Chi, Last Accessed September 2, 2015, .
[3] Theta Delta Chi. “Kappa SemiCentennial ” The Shield: Official Publication of the Theta Delta Chi Fraternity, 22:1 (March 1906), 266. Google Book.
[4] Theta Delta Chi, 266.
[5] Theta Delta Chi, 266.
[6] Alaric Bertrans Start, ed. History of Tufts College, 1854-1896 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: University Press, 1897), 35.
[7] Bob Cox, “Coffee Pot Society Formed to Perk Up School Spirit.” Tufts Weekly LVI, 2 (October 4, 1951): 3.
[8]Cox, 3.

Spring Back in Time: The 2015 Reunion Classes Spring Exhibit is now on Display!
Posted on February 11, 2015 by Rose Oliveira | Categories: exhibits | |  Tagged:  |

Women playing ukeleles, 1965

Women playing ukeleles, 1965.

The 2015 Reunion Classes Exhibit is now on display in Tisch Library, near the entrance to the Tower Café. The exhibit highlights the classes of 2005, 2000, 1990, 1970, 1965, and 1945 as we welcome the classes back to campus for reunion weekend. It commemorates Tufts alumni through photographs, news clippings, and ephemera selected from the collections of the DCA.

The standing display case focuses on the 10th reunion class of 2005, the 25th of the class of 1990, and the 50th reunion class of 1965. Each year reflects campus life and world events that affected the Tufts community. Highlights from 2005 include photographs of guest speaker Senator Ted Kennedy as well as Tufts Daily articles on students protesting the genocide in Darfur and an alumni experience of Hurricane Katrina. Highlights from 1990 include pictures of Tufts students playing basketball on the South Hall Basketball courts as well Tufts Daily articles on the reunification of Germany and South African Youth Congress members’ call for an end to apartheid. Highlights from the class of 1965 include Tufts Weekly articles on Father Baer’s reflections on the Selma to Montgomery march and an article calling on administration to allow women to wear slacks on campus.

The flat display case focuses on the 10th reunion class of 2000, 45th reunion class of 1970 and the 70th reunion class of 1945. Class of 2000 highlights include orientation memorabilia and includes photographs of the Gore Rally. The class of 1970 display features photographs of Tufts’ memorial to the Kent State shootings and creation of the first co-ed dorms. The class of 1945 memorabilia from the Tufts vs. Harvard game includes the football program, tickets to the game, and articles that had been tipped into the program. Also featured are photographs of the ROTC band playing with trumpet player Bill Gammi and the ROTC marching to the game.

This exhibit was designed and installed by Rose Oliveira, Archives and Research Assistant. It will be on display until fall 2015. For more information on Tufts history and alumni, stop by the DCA on the Ground Floor of Tisch Library.

Samuel Berger Exhibit Case at DCA
Posted on May 16, 2014 by Leah Edelman | Categories: exhibits, features, news | | |

Tufts DCA is proud to welcome a new addition to our office: the Samuel Berger Exhibit Case! Generously donated by the Berger family, the case will display items from the Samuel Berger Tufts Memorabilia Collection (MS159) on a rotating basis.

Dr. Samuel Harry Berger (1948-2009) graduated from Tufts University School of Medicine in 1973 before beginning an accomplished career as a pediatrician. Because of the strong connection he developed with Tufts during his years in medical school, he began collecting Tufts memorabilia related to all of Tufts’ schools and colleges and became well versed in the history of the university. Dr. Berger passed away on January 19, 2009, and his wife, Marlene Berger, generously donated her husband’s collection of memorabilia to DCA in 2013.

Stop by the DCA on the Ground Floor of Tisch Library to view the exhibit, which features items from the Berger collection related to sports at Tufts, representations of Jumbo (the university’s beloved mascot), and images of Tufts buildings. Highlights include athletics letter patches, a Jumbo charm bracelet from 1934, early 20th century Wedgwood china with images of Jumbo and iconic Tufts buildings including Ballou Hall and Goddard Chapel, and a 1947 calendar featuring photographs of the Tufts campus alongside the text of “Along the Row,” the title poem from a book of poetry about Tufts by former professor John Holmes.

This exhibit was designed and installed by Leah Edelman, Archives and Research Assistant, in May of 2014. It will be on display until further notice. For more information on the Samuel Berger Tufts Memorabilia Collection, stop by the DCA on the Ground Floor of Tisch Library.


DCA’s 2014 Reunion Classes Exhibit Now on Display!
Posted on January 9, 2014 by Leah Edelman | Categories: exhibits, features | |  Tagged:  , |

The 2014 Reunion Classes Exhibit, now on display in Tisch Library (in the cases located near the entrance to the Tower Cafe), highlights the classes of 2004, 1989, 1979, 1964, 1939, and 1914. The exhibit commemorates Tufts alumni through photographs, news clippings, and ephemera selected from the collections of the DCA.

The standing display case focuses on the 10th reunion year of the class of 2004, the 25th reunion year of the class of 1989, and the 50th reunion year of the class of 1964. Highlights from the class of 2004’s time at Tufts include photographs of notable speakers such as Spike Lee and John Kerry, and a photograph of the Patches for Peace quilt created by the Tufts community in response to 9/11. Highlights from the class of 1989’s tenure include photographs of students at rallies and protests, enjoying senior week activities, and at graduation, as well as a photograph of an early performance by a famous Tufts alum. Highlights from the class of 1964 include photographs of students on move-in day and at social functions and sports events, as well as a Tufts Ivy Book and the front page of the Tufts Weekly after JFK’s assassination.

The flat display case focuses on the 35th reunion year of the class of 1979, the 75th reunion year of the class of 1939, and the 100th reunion year of the class of 1914. Highlights from the class of 1979’s Tufts years include a football signed by members of the 1979 football team, and a photograph of the 1975 fire in Barnum Hall that consumed Jumbo, Tufts’s beloved mascot. Highlights from the class of 1939 include coverage of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, and a photograph of the 1939 women’s basketball team. Highlights from the class of 1914 include photographs of the 1914 Tufts football team and WWI soldiers marching on campus, and a Class Day book.

This exhibit was designed and installed by Leah Edelman, Archives and Research Assistant. It will be on display until Fall 2014. For more information on Tufts history and alumni, stop by the DCA on the Ground Floor of Tisch Library.

DCA’s Fall Exhibit Now on Display
Posted on September 20, 2013 by Deborah Kaplan | Categories: exhibits | |  Tagged:  , , |

[Guest post by intrepid student worker Tim Walsh]

Stop by the DCA display cases in Tisch Library (located near the entrance to Tower Café) and check out the new fall exhibit: Jester Hairston, A29: He and His Talents Prevailed. The exhibit, which includes photographs, correspondence, news clippings, and album covers from DCA collections including the Jester Hairston collection, commemorates the life of notable Tufts alum Jester Hairston, class of 1929.

Jester Hairston, the grandson of slaves from Bellows Creek, North Carolina, started out as an amazingly talented singer and actor in the 1920s and early 1930s. Affected by widespread racism of the time that extended into the arts, Hairston eventually also became an accomplished conductor and composer, areas relatively open to African American artists for much of the 20th century. As such, Hairston became one of a small number of African American composers whose work transformed African American spirituals into an accepted genre of choral music. He is perhaps best known as the composer of “Amen,” a spiritual so “authentic” many did not realize Hairston had composed it.

Despite the constraints of the time, Jester Hairston also had a remarkable, if sometimes overlooked, career as an actor. He first made his mark in radio, with recurring roles in the Amos ‘n’ Andy show and Bold Venture (1951-52), where he starred as King Moses alongside Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. As a television actor, Hairston was a regular on The Amos ‘n Andy Show (1951-53), That’s My Mama (1974-75), and Amen (1986-1991). Hairston also had roles (often uncredited) in over 60 films, including The Alamo (1960), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Lady Sings the Blues (1972), The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976), The Last Tycoon (1976), I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), and Being John Malkovich (1999). Occasionally criticized for taking film and television roles that stereotyped African Americans, Hairston said, “We had a hard time fighting for dignity. We had no power. We had to take it, and because we took it, the young people today have opportunities.”

Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Hairston was honored for his work across the US and was frequently invited as a guest conductor at high schools, colleges, and church choirs. He also made several goodwill State Department tours to Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America, once stating, “I will bring more love to China through American Negro folk songs than anything Kissinger can write.”

For his many and varied achievements, Jester Hairston received honorary doctorates from four schools, including Tufts, and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He will be the subject of the upcoming documentary “Amen: The Life and Music of Jester Hairston.”

This exhibit was designed and installed by Timothy Walsh, Archives and Research Assistant. It will be on display until January 2014. For more information on Jester Hairston and other notable Tufts alums, stop by the DCA on the Ground Floor of Tisch Library or check out the Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History on the Tufts Digital Library.

Civility in Politics?
Posted on December 7, 2011 by Eric Beck | Categories: exhibits | | |

In an era where people claim we have lost all civility in politics, we look back at an era where civility in politics had a whole different meaning.  Specifically, we can look at three specific elections in Virginia in 1817 and 1818.

In the first one, the congressional race for the 8th district in 1817 (back then, Virginia held their Congressional elections in odd years), we see a close defeat of Armistead T. Mason.  This, in and of itself, doesn’t mean much without context.

Then, in 1818, we have two different elections.  In the first, we have the election for the House of Delegates in Loudoun County.  In this election, John M. McCarty is elected to the House of Delegates.  But, in December of that same year, we have a special election to replace McCarty in the House of Delegates.  What was it that lead to McCarty being unseated in the House of Delegates?  It turns out, from looking at the Genius of Liberty from December 22, 1818 as listed in the notes of Philip Lampi, the lead researcher on the New Nation Votes project, McCarty refused to sign the oath against dueling that was required at the time.  He was unseated and a new election was held to replace McCarty, the aforementioned special election.

So how does this relate to the congressional election from the year before?  Well, as is documented at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, McCarty and Mason were brothers-in-law.  And that refusal to sign the oath against dueling?  Well, just two months later, on February 6, 1819, McCarty killed Mason in a duel that arose from the bitterness over Mason’s failed congressional run.

So, the next time you watch the candidates yelling at each other, just be glad they’re not shooting at each other.

Patches for Peace: remembering 9/11
Posted on September 9, 2011 by Deborah Kaplan | Categories: events, exhibits | |  Tagged:  , , |

On September 11 2001, about 400 students and staff gathered at Tufts’ Hillel to grieve, to spend the day together, or to talk about possible actions in the face of the attacks. Within a couple of hours students decided to create a Patches for Peace Quilt to provide a creative outlet and set a message of hope, peace and community. Hillel provided logistical and infrastructure support, and members of the Hillel student board approached many of the approximately 160 student organizations and groups for their participation in the project. Eventually 88 student organizations — ranging from the Association of Latin American Students to the Arab Student Association, from the Chamber Singers to the Inter Greek Council, and from the No Homers Club to the Women’s Soccer Team — each produced a patch.

See the quilt at the online Patches for Peace quilt exhibit, or see the actual quilt on temporary display at the Tufts Campus Center from September 11 to October 11, 2011.