Celebrating the Gerald R. Gill Papers

Our staff at Digital Collections and Archives was very pleased to participate in the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy’s symposium “The Past Present and Future of Black and Native Boston,” which took place March 31st in Breed Memorial Hall. DCA staff provided support for students constructing an archival exhibit on display in Breed Hall that included images from the Tufts University Archives, as well as documents and photographs from the Gerald R. Gill Papers. The symposium included a celebration of the Gill Papers, with remarks from President Tony Monaco, Dr. Bernard Harleston, Professors Kendra Field, Kerri Greenidge, Pearl Robinson, and Jeanne Penvenne, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Jim Glaser, and DCA Director Dan Santamaria. Several speakers on the panel also offered moving remarks about Gerald Gill and the African American Freedom Trail project, and about their work on community-based public history programs around Boston. Seth Markle, Professor of History and International Studies at Trinity College, spoke movingly about his time as a student of Professor Gill, and quoted from Professor Gill’s book Meanness Mania, which was especially resonant in 2017.

In conjunction with the event Tufts DCA developed a new exhibit, “Selections from the Gerald R. Gill Papers,” in the Dranetz Tower Corridor, Tisch Library, which will be on display throughout the Spring semester. Curated by our Archives and Research Assistants, Stefana Breitwieser, Steven Gentry, and Sony Prosper, and our Archives Assistant, Fatima Niazy, this exhibit focuses on four broad areas of Professor Gerald R. Gill’s life as documented in his collection – Biography, Teaching, Scholarship, and Community.

Professor Gill’s papers reveal a deeply intersectional life focused on teaching and dedication to his students. The collection includes many photographs of current and former students, some documenting a vibrant slice of student life on the hill, others featuring Professor Gill in full academic regalia, beaming beside his students on their graduation day, as well as correspondence testifying to deep and lasting relationships as former students become fellow professionals, colleagues, and friends.

Highlights of the exhibit include Professor Gill’s teaching awards (he was selected as Professor of the Year in Massachusetts twice!); excerpts from three chapters of his unfinished book on African American protest in Boston titled Struggling Yet in Freedom’ s Birthplace: Black Protest Activities in Boston, 1930-1972; selections from his collection of political buttons; his groundbreaking article on black students at Tufts, “Another Light on the Hill,” which inspired him to create an exhibit of the same name; and fliers and invitations to events such as the planting of a tree in honor of African American alumni at Tufts.

Professor Gill also collected material created by Tufts students, alumni, and faculty of color. The flyers, photographs, and documents on display demonstrate the powerful connections formed between Gill and the Tufts community.

We hope you’ll come by to visit the exhibit and that you’ll leave with a deeper understanding of Professor Gill’s lasting – and ongoing – contributions to the Tufts community and how his work helped community members “understand Tufts and its history in ways that many had not appreciated before,” as a statement from President Lawrence Bacow put it after Professor Gill passed away.

For more information on the Gerald R. Gill papers, please see the finding aid in the Tufts Digital Library, or contact us at archives@tufts.edu.