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Crystal A. deGregory
Tennessee State University
Raising a Nonviolent Army: Four Nashville Black Colleges and the Century-Long Struggle for Civil Rights, 1830s-1930s
Advisor: Richard J.M. Blackett, PhD
As the “Athens of the South,” Nashville is the home of Fisk, Meharry, Tennessee State and American Baptist Theological colleges, four of the South’s oldest black centers of higher education. The role of these schools’ students in the modern Civil Rights Movement however, has been largely attributed to the black church tradition. Yet, long before scores of Nashville college students planned, organized and executed one of the most disciplined nonviolent direct-action campaigns against segregation during the 1960s, black college students, faculty and alumni enjoyed a century-long history of often complicated and sometimes multifarious activism. While the study reveals the institutional, personal and collective risks of black college activism, it attempts to answer one principal question: As centers of black thought, agency, self-determination and social responsibility, do black colleges deserve more credit for their role in the black resistance narrative; and if so, have they been cheated by orthodoxy which contends that the black church alone is at the epicenter of black activism? The archival sources for this project include public documents, institutional and personal correspondence, student publications, newspapers, as well as administrative and board records. When woven together, these histories will bring to bear the causal factors that are both exceptional to the Nashville movement as well as representative of the larger narrative of student activism. In doing so, this project reconsiders the place of black colleges in the larger struggle for civil rights stretching back to the early 19th century. It argues that black college student activists in Nashville and across the South during the modern Civil Rights Movement, whether they knew it or not, stood in the much longer tradition of black college activism.
|List Affiliations:||Reviewer for H-SAWH
|Interests:||African American History / Studies
Black History / Studies
Women, Gender, and Sexuality
A native of Freeport, Bahamas, Dr. Crystal A. deGregory received her doctoral degree in history from Vanderbilt University in May 2011. Entitled "Raising a Nonviolent Army: Four Nashville Black Colleges and the Century-Long Struggle for Civil Rights, 1830s-1930s," her dissertation focuses on the role of American Baptist College, Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University and their students in the struggle for equality, justice and civil rights in Nashville, Tennessee.
Crystal received her undergraduate training at the historic Fisk University. A proud Fiskite, the school's small but mighty faculty nurtured her love of history as both a passion and profession. In May 2005, she was awarded a master's degree from Vanderbilt for her thesis "The Color Divide in the Emergent Black Man's Party: The Political Strivings of the Bahamian Colored and Black Middle Class in the Progressive Liberal Party, 1953-1963."
A former fellow of the National Visionary Heritage Fellows Program of the National Visionary Leadership Project, her research on Drs. McDonald and Jamye Coleman Williams was included in the 2004 monograph, A Wealth of Wisdom: Legendary African American Elders Speak. In addition to being among the inaugural fellows of Vanderbilt's Center for Nashville Studies (in conjunction with Vanderbilt's College of Arts and Sciences), Crystal was the recipient of the Bahamas Government Graduate Scholarship and Lyford Cay Graduate Student awards. In 2010, she also won the alternate award for the TIAA-CREF Ruth Simms Hamilton Research Fellowship.
She believes deeply in the unique mission of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and to this end, proudly serves on the faculty of Tennessee State University’s department of history, geography and political science. A regular contributor to HBCU Digest, Crystal is also the founder and executive editor of HBCUstory.com, an online advocacy center presenting inspiring stories of the HBCU community’s past and present, for our future.
Her work has been published in Encyclopedia of African American Popular Culture (2011), Tennessee Historical Quarterly (2010), Freedom Facts and Firsts: 400 Years of the African American Civil Rights Experience (2009), National African American Biography (2008), Notable Black American Men II (2007), and Encyclopedia of African American Business (2006). She has forthcoming work in The Tennessee State University Journal and in
A Single Garment of Destiny: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Globalization of an Ethical Ideal, Lewis V. Baldwin and Paul Dekar, editors.