Acknowledging Parts Of Our Past
MICHAEL K. YOUNG
February 14, 2019
Dear Aggie community,
Over the last week, racially charged photos have become a topic of national discussion. We know that, regardless of the time period, such images are markers of bigotry and prejudice. There is no excuse for it and similar images are part of our university's history as well.
In 2013, a team of archivists in our Cushing Library undertook a laborious but important process: digitizing every page of every Texas A&M University yearbook. The team members while scanning the pages, experienced delight in seeing how the student yearbook staff celebrated and honored university traditions over the years. That same team was also unequivocally appalled that some yearbooks included photos depicting students in blackface, misogyny and other shocking content that is offensive and inappropriate. The Libraries team members grappled with what they were seeing, asking themselves if they should censor the content by obscuring photos on the pages, or refrain from scanning those pages altogether, potentially saving embarrassment for the university. In the end, the Libraries were resolute in their commitment for the protection of the record of history, regardless of our view and perspective decades later. This approach follows the example of the Library of Congress, which had encountered similar issues. The Libraries team digitized the books exactly as they are. The library's website notes that some content would be found offensive and that views are not endorsed. In fact, we disavow those views.
Years ago in our community and, sadly, on occasion even now, we see the ugly reality of discrimination. When we see it, we do not need to hide from it, but to call it out, to refute it and to stand for respect and love for all.
We love our university and we acknowledge its history in all its dimensions because it has formed us and made us who we are today. There is so much good here and there are so many people who embody our values. This is what truly makes Aggies, Aggies.
Michael K. Young