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Tufts Students Help Record Medford History

Tufts Students Help Record Medford HistoryThe rich history of African-Americans in Medford from the late 19th through the late 20th century is being preserved with the help of Tufts students and faculty.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [06.08.05] This spring, Tufts – in conjunction with the Medford Historical Society and Brandeis University – wrapped up part of its contribution to a major initiative to record the histories of African-Americans in West Medford. A semester's worth of work by Tufts students culminated in a May 7 presentation to members of the community.

"This experience transformed their relationship with knowledge. By learning what a professional anthropologist or historian does, there's been a shift. They are no longer consumers of knowledge, but producers of knowledge," Tufts anthropology professor Rosalind Shaw, who coordinated Tufts' contribution to the project, told the Medford Transcript.

"Place, Race and Memory: The Afro-American Remembrance Project" is slated to run for three years, highlighting the contributions of African-Americans to Medford from the Civil War through the Civil Rights movement. Medford is one of five cities splitting a $900,000 federal grant ear marked for the project.

Tufts' contributions to the project come from the Department of Anthropology, Tufts Arts and Sciences Diversity Fund, the Perseus Project and the University College of Citizenship and Public Service, according to theTranscript. The U.S. Department of Education's Project LOCAL (Learning Our Community's American Lore) is also sponsoring the project.

Students interviewed volunteers who spoke about notable persons – both living and dead – who helped comprise the Afro-American experience in Medford.

"They were able to contribute old photographs, documents or objects to the students," Shaw told the Transcript.

Among the stories the students uncovered was that of Madeleine Dugger Andrews. In 1963, she became the first African-American elected to the Medford school committee, but because of a rule barring blacks from teaching in Medford schools, she could not teach in the Medford school system.

"A journey begins with the first step and our committee was pleased, anxious, proud and excited by all the work done on this journey," Wallace Kountze, nephew of Dugger Andrews, told the Transcript. "I listened to these students give their presentations on [May 7] and I was so pleased with the quality, the interest and the enthusiasm each student produced."

One of the major challenges was digging up past conflicts from a time where racism and segregation were prevalent.

"There were a lot of silences about that," Shaw told the newspaper. "It was a hard subject to bring out because people didn't want to relive those traumatic times."

This summer, Shaw will work toward collecting the information her students gathered for a website to be hosted by the Society, with the Tufts Digital Library possibly highlighting some of the content as well.

In the springs of 2006 and 2007, Tufts will rejoin the project for its final phases.

"It's so exciting because these students are preserving history, that if not captured now, will be lost," Medford Historical Society President Jay Griffin told the Transcript. "Some people have passed this on to their relatives and friends, but it's great that we can get it down."

Kountze couldn't agree more.

"I think this project has gone beyond most people's expectations," he told the newspaper. "We're all like one big family now."

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