Browse Exhibits (5 total)

“Imagine Going Half a Day and Not Seeing Anybody that Looks Like You”: A History of Black Students and Employees at Tennessee Tech

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Tennessee Tech University was founded as a racially segregated, public institution in 1915. By the 1920s, African Americans worked at the college, but the administration relegated them to low-paying employment in the cafeteria. The college was the last higher education institution in the Tennessee Board of Regents system to desegregate. Leona Lusk Officer’s enrollment in 1964 opened the door for Black students at Tennessee Tech. Integration has been a long, incomplete process, as Black students, faculty, and employees have struggled to be respected and supported on campus and in the broader Cookeville community. Despite the challenges the Black campus community has faced, students and employees have created spaces for joy and pride in themselves.

There is no universal and timeless experience shared by all Black students and employees at Tech. The university's Black community has included people from the small towns of the Upper Cumberland, residents of U.S. cities with large Black populations like Atlanta and Nashville, and immigrants and visiting students from beyond the United States.

The diversity within the Black campus community shaped how individuals experienced the university and surrounding area. Local and national events, such as legal challenges to segregation at other universities and the assassination of Dr. King, also influenced the climate for the community at Tennessee Tech. Within this environment, individuals and groups stepped up to initiate change. Black students banded together to cope with the isolation of attending a predominantly white college. Students advocated for the hiring of Black faculty, staff, and administrators; recruitment and support of Black students; and expansion of the curriculum to include non-white culture.

The title, "Imagine Going Half a Day and Not Seeing Anybody that Looks Like You," is taken from a quote by Tech alum and long-time administrator Marc Burnett. He was describing the isolation of being an African American student on a predominantly white campus.

The Archives would like to thank students in the RACE PLUS program, alumni, Charria Campbell and Corinne Johnson in the Office of Multicultural Affairs, Dr. Robert Owens II, and Janet Mansel and Amanda Fabrizio-Grzesik in Alumni Development for their support and involvement in this project.

This exhibit is presented in honor of the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center's 30th Anniversary. For more on the anniversary celebration, check out the website here.

Accessibility note: Click on images in the exhibit to view them in larger sizes and to access image descriptions, transcriptions, or screen reader compliant PDFs.

Big Name Entertainment The Exhibit: 1960s-1980s

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Alumni and community members regularly contact archives regarding big-name entertainment groups that performed at Tennessee Tech in the past. Some interest is due to nostalgia, but others inquire because of a concert or performers historical significance. We assisted patrons as far as England and Australia with our big-name entertainment archives. As a result of this interest, we felt a big-name entertainment exhibit at the Varsity Theater would be a great idea.

The exhibit features photographs of famous people on stages; however, it also includes some great stories and historical documents that add depth to the pictures. For instance, did you know Elvis’s last scheduled concert was at Tech? Or that a major record label signed Garth Brooks after playing Tech? More importantly, how did Tennessee Tech book these big-name acts??? Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, Jefferson Starship, and The Temptations to name a few. The exhibit answers these questions and more.   

We wanted a traditional exhibit opening. We even prepared a big-name entertainment playlist which you can listen to here (*Spotify required): https://open.spotify.com/playlist/2ftNbzz22pNZ2t4eQYx2VK?si=UbYaZkclRdeNs0qISVO3TA&fbclid=IwAR2SpZQnzdm0XGFbW7Nx1JoLNb4vZWIrBjf8A8hOdy1HCqULcB-cWOBkfgw

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this is not happening. You can view the exhibit in person with social distancing and a mask at the Varsity Theatre or here! We are living in strange times, but we are also excited to try a new online exhibit software. We hope that it makes the exhibit accessible to more people.

If you have a story about seeing a band at Tennessee Tech that we did not include and you would like for us to add it to the exhibit, you can submit it to archives@tntech.edu. make certain that your email includes a permission for us to publish and store your story for the exhibit and future researchers to use.

Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center Events

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This exhibit on events held by the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center is presented in honor of the Center's 30th Anniversary.

Check back in November 2020 and 2021 for additional exhibits on the Center's history and the broader history of African Americans at Tennessee Tech.

Accessibility note: Click on images in the exhibit to view them in larger sizes and to access image descriptions, transcriptions, or screen reader compliant PDFs.

Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center History

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Black cultural centers have their roots in the Black student movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Students fought for their right to attend predominantly white public institutions while also maintaining and celebrating their Blackness. Tennessee Tech students pushed for the creation of a Black Culture Center during a time of increased attention to the limitations of past desegregation efforts in Tennessee. Since the founding of the Center in 1989 and formal opening in 1990, the Center has provided a welcoming and supportive space for people of color on campus.

This exhibit on the history of the Leona Lusk Officer Black Cultural Center is presented in honor of the Center's 30th Anniversary. For more on the anniversary celebration, check out the website here.

Accessibility note: Click on images in the exhibit to view them in larger sizes and to access image descriptions, transcriptions, or screen reader compliant PDFs.

Welcome to Archives and Special Collections

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Tennessee Tech University Archives and Special Collections hosts introduction to archives sessions for students to explain the purpose of archives, give a brief description of the university's history, and allow students to view and analyze materials held in the archives. Although the online platform lacks the feel of the archives, the in-person experience, and the actual handling of historic documents, this online class is designed to give some experience of the actual in-person visit to the archives.

The sections of the online course are listed on the right.

If you have any questions, please contact us at archives@tntech.edu

If you would like to come by, please feel free to set up an appointment!  https://www.tntech.edu/library/archives-visit.php

Check out our website here: https://www.tntech.edu/library/archives.php