Oral Histories on DigitalUD Completes 'Ahead of the Curve'

Oct 20, 2017 | University Relations staff

DUBUQUE, Iowa – The University of Dubuque and Charles C. Myers Library is pleased to announce the completion of Ahead of the Curve: The First Century of African American Experiences at the University of Dubuque, a multiyear project that included the digital publication of the oral histories of 30 African American students who attended UD from 1945 to 2017, including the first African American, female graduate, Virginia Diggs (C’47). Also included in Ahead of the Curve are the reminiscences of John Couchman, whose father, Gaylord C. Couchman, was president of UD from 1953 to 1967 and a champion of civil rights, as well as remarks from current President Jeffrey F. Bullock.

The project, partially funded by a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges, consists of oral histories with transcripts, a booklet that provides a context for the oral histories and a critical look at UD’s African American history, and a timeline. It is available at http://digitalud.dbq.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/aheadofthecurve/introduction.

Ahead of the Curve was coordinated by Brian Hallstoos, associate professor of history, and Jonathan Helmke, former assistant director for technical services and archivist. Christopher Doll, present assistant director for technical services and archivist, joined the project in Helmke’s absence. Ahead of the Curve began in October 2015 with an exhibition in the Bisignano Art Gallery in Heritage Center that chronicled the experiences since Sol and Ben Butler became the first African American students at UD in 1915.

More than a commemoration, Ahead of the Curve celebrates the hard work, dedication, success, daring, and spirit of inquiry of students whose lives shaped and were shaped by UD.

“With the completion of Ahead of the Curve, students, alumni, and others may connect with our past as they decide where UD and the broader community belong along the curve of embracing diversity and fostering African American enrichment and success,” Hallstoos said. “This invaluable resource, which will engage my students in coming years, offers historical insight – both good and bad experiences – that can orient efforts to make our institution best serve students of all backgrounds.”

The project is part of DigitalUD, http://digitalud.dbq.edu, which is hosted by Charles C. Myers Library and serves as a digital repository of select archival material and academic works created by faculty, students, and staff. Currently, DigitalUD includes the annual journal of the Wendt Center for Character Education, Chlapaty Research Fellowship projects, and bibliographies of faculty and student scholarship.

“The library hosts this content with the goal of showcasing scholarly and creative achievements of our UD community,” said Mary Anne Knefel, university librarian.