The Key to the Door: Special Collections’ Associate Professor and Research Archivist Ervin Jordan Contributes Lead Chapter to New Book on African Americans at the University of Virginia

Ervin L. Jordan Jr.’s essay, “Perseverance and Resilience: African Americans at the University of Virginia,” is the lead chapter for a new book on the African American experience at UVA. Jordan is an Associate Professor and Research Archivist at the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

The book, The Key to the Door: Experiences of Early African American Students at the University of Virginia, explores the stories of some of the first black students at UVA and, through first person narrative, follows the story of African American students during the period of desegregation at the University. The book was edited by Maurice Apprey and Shelli M. Poe. Apprey is Professor of Psychiatry and Dean of African American Affairs at the University of Virginia, and Poe is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Vocation, Ethics, and Society at Millsaps College.

Jordan’s essay comprises a historical overview of African Americans at UVA from 1819-2016, in 17 sections, beginning with the history of enslaved African Americans at the University, through segregation and desegregation, and up to present day. A look at the section titles gives the reader some idea of the scope of this chapter alone:

Working without Wages
Invisible Faces, Forgotten Voices
Women of Labor
Continuity and Disruption
Echoes of an Enslaved Past
School of Segregation
First Applicant: Alice Jackson
First Admission: Gregory Swanson
First Graduate: Walter Ridley
Desegregation Decades: The 1960s and 1970s
First Faculty and Administrators
Organizations and Publications
Jefferson’s Gladiators: Athletes and Coaches
“Educate, Motivate, Liberate”: Upward Bound, the Office of African-American Affairs, and the Carter G. Woodson Institute
Enhancing the Community of Trust: The Honor System and Multiculturalism
Of Times and Generations: The Twenty-First Century
Bicentennial Coda: 1819 and 2019.

The Key to the Door is available through its publisher, the University of Virginia Press, as well as from the UVA Bookstores. Copies are currently being cataloged at the UVA Library and will be available soon.

Professor Ervin L. Jordan Jr. has been at the Small Special Collections Library since 1979. He specializes in Civil War and African-American history, and is the author of three books including Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia, named by Publisher’s Weekly as one of 1995’s best nonfiction books. He has more than 60 publications in academic and historical journals and encyclopedias including: The African American Odyssey; The Western Journal of Black Studies; Encyclopedia Virginia; New Perspectives on the Civil War; The Oxford Companion to American Military History; The Dictionary of Virginia Biography; The Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century; Virginia’s Civil War; Virginia at War, 1861; Virginia at War, 1865; and Voices from within the Veil: African Americans and the Experience of Democracy.

Jordan’s most recent public lectures include: “Monument Man: Robert E. Lee: America’s Most Honored Traitor” for the “Lightning Rods for Controversy: Civil War Monuments Past, Present & Future” symposium, Library of Virginia, (nationally broadcast live on C-SPAN3, February 2017); “Slave Lives Matters?: Race & Redemption at the University of Virginia” for “Universities and Slavery: Bound by History” conference, Harvard University, March 2017; “The Black Female Image at the University of Virginia,” Global History of Black Girlhood Conference, University of Virginia, March 2017. He is currently a member of the President’s Commission on Slavery and the University; during the 11th Annual Donning of the Kente Ceremony for graduating fourth year students in 2015, Professor Jordan was one of two faculty members who received special recognition by UVA’s Office of African-American Affairs for contributions and dedication to students.

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