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History Matters: Lost DSU catalogs

Delaware Public Media

History Matters digs into the Delaware Historical Society’s archives each month to explore connections between key people, places, and events in history and present-day news.

February’s History Matters examines an item offering new insight into Delaware State University’s past.

"Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise." - Maya Angelou

History Matters: Lost DSU catalogs

WDDE sits down with DSU's Carlos Holmes to discuss the new findings in the records kept by former DSU President William Jason.

Producer/Videographer/Editor: Ben Szmidt

DSU is currently ranked ninth nationally Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, but much of its early history remains a mystery.

Thanks to Carol Jason, some new light is being shed on the school’s earliest days.

On December 19, 2013 Jason visited the university to present a $10,000 endowment check to the school's William C. Jason Library. During the ceremony, Jason read from a a bound collection of university catalogs and president's reports compiled by William Jason from 1893 to 1918 that no one at the university knew existed.

DSU officials remained in contact with Jason about the book and on January 8, 2014, she donated it to the university.

Upon examination, the collection detailed things like the names of enrollees, full staff lists, and appropriations records that the university never had before.

DSU’s Director of News Services Carlos Holmes says that one of the main reasons items like this detailing DSU's history are so hard to come by is that for many years the university was more concentrated on survival rather than historical preservation.

“Not as much attention was given to the preservation of documents and historical items, that just wasn’t done so there is a lot of our history that has been lost," said Holmes. "But it’s possible that we can go back and recapture some of it when things like this is dropped in our laps.”

Holmes adds the collection helps bring the university’s story into sharper focus.

“It is a history of perseverance and tenacity. It is a history where we have done a lot with a lot less than other institutions have. We have much to be proud of and the more historical information I learn about Delaware State University, the more that point is driven home.”

This piece is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.