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Historical Methods 2020

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Visual Works


Established in 1912, Whittier College has designated the Rock as an integral aspect of its campus lore. The Rock represents a “tight-knit community” in which the student body can emblazon messages on its surface, from the lighthearted to the socially-conscious. In an effort to protest Black American deaths at the hands of police and to protest deep-rooted structural racism within the college itself, students have made their solidarity known by displaying the Black Lives Matter phrase on the Rock. This is just one of many different ways Black students have found ways to assert their voices on college campuses, which historians have documented thoroughly. However, an email from the Dean of Students and Vice President of Whittier College noted that the Black Lives Matter message on the Rock had been defaced by unknown perpetrators. Historians have traced similar patterns of anti-Black backlash throughout higher education’s history—from intentional decreases in white student enrollment, to widespread state violence committed against Black student activists in the 1960s. Considering the significance the Rock holds as a symbol of unity, and the intersection between the pandemic’s devastating impact on communities of color with the social upheaval as a result of increased scrutiny of American institutional racism, we can speculate that this vandalism was a deliberate message to oppose social justice declarations such as Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter on the Rock, Summer 2020, Whittier, CA. September 18, 2020. Quaker Campus.;“Whittier College Traditions.” Whittier College. Accessed October 20, 2020.;Biondi, Martha. "CONCLUSION.: Reflections on the Movement and Its Legacy." In Black Revolution on Campus, 268-78. Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 2012. Accessed October 22, 2020.; Wechsler, Harold S. "Presidential Address: How Getting into College Led Me to Study the History of Getting into College." History of Education Quarterly 49, no. 1 (2009): 1-38. Accessed October 22, 2020.

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