“The first line of research was to look at the university archives’ land records, and part of that is to see who did own this land and was the land owned by people who were enslavers or people who held African Americans as indentured servants in long indentures such as 30 years, even in the years after the Civil War, which in fact we have found,” she said.
About 80 other universities have joined the consortium, which is based at the University of Virginia. Most schools represent the southern United States, though some schools in Canada and England have also joined.
UD has a reputation for having a predominantly white student body. A study of 2015 data by the Hechinger Report found that UD had the fifth-highest gap between the percentage of Black high school graduates in the state to incoming Black freshmen.
That report found that while 33% of Delaware high school graduates were Black students, just 6% of UD’s freshman class were Black students. The four schools that had a worse percentage were all flagship universities in the South, including the University of Mississippi, which was the worst.
In 2020, 948 Black students accounted for 5.6% of the full-time UD student body population of 17,034. In 2010, 831 Black students made up 5.2% of the student body of 15,888.
Parker said better exploring the school’s history and talking about its racist past may help increase diversity among the student body.
“Instead of just pretending like everything is fine, I think we need to talk about why are we in the position where people aren’t choosing to come to the University of Delaware, and then what can we do to make it a more inclusive and accepting space,” she said. “One part of that is to be honest about our past and about the problems that we’re still facing, because that’s the only way that we can move forward.”