UT’s Black Diaspora Archive announces inaugural exhibition

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Photo Credit: Ashley Ephraim | Daily Texan Staff

Last month, the Black Diaspora Archive announced its inaugural exhibition featuring the works of psychologist, academic and social activist Edmund W. Gordon, the namesake to UT’s Gordon-White building.

The archive is a joint project between UT Black Studies, the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collection and UT Libraries. Archivist Rachel Winston said the collection aims to preserve and increase accessibility to works related to the black diaspora of the Americas and the Caribbean. 

Winston said the archive stands out because the works represent populations who are normally marginalized.

“There’s a huge void in our institutions, both academic and non, of … black intellectuals, black artists, black activists, people who have helped to form and change our society,” Winston said.

The inaugural exhibit, which will run through Jan. 2, features academic papers and other materials from Gordon’s work in collaboration with other academics such as author W.E.B. Du Bois and artist Charles White.

“The work that I do is urgent in trying to capture those stories and I do what I can with the resources I have to make sure that they’re preserved, that legacies are preserved … and can be used as a point of inspiration for scholarship down the line,” Winston said.

During the archive’s opening reception on Monday, Gordon said his role as an applied social scientist was to use existing ideas in academia to advance the cause of underrepresented people.

“In much of my work, I’m taking knowledge that’s out there and trying to make sense out of it for … a group of people who have been oppressed and who are resisting,” Gordon said.

The archive also started the AKA Scholars Black Diaspora Archive Internship program for UT students every semester. Anthropology junior Alexandria Watson is the archive’s first intern and aids the archive in curation, inventory and exhibitions.

Watson said she is excited to be taking part in history by being the first intern in an archive uniquely dedicated to the black diaspora.

“I’m watching history happen,” Watson said. “You don’t really realize how important what you do is until someone else tells you.”

Jordan Walters, a history and African and African diaspora studies sophomore, said the archive can serve as a space for students to better understand the diverse black experience.

“It’s a space for education, innovation and understanding,” Walters said. “It does give blackness a stage to be on display here at UT.”