Lauren Kientz Anderson recently received the welcome news that she is a recipient for the 2014-2015 Margaret Storrs Grierson Scholar-in-Residence fellowship. Dr. Anderson will use the fellowship to spend six weeks this summer at the Sophia Smith archival collection at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She will spend the days searching through the Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) records from the 1920s and 1930s, the evenings working on her book manuscript, and the weekends exploring the region.
Her book, “Speaking to the World: Black American Women and Global Interracialism, 1918-1939,” argues that black women were essential advocates of interracial cooperation; without their participation, interracialism (the idea prominent in the 1920s that personal contact between educated members of both races was the most viable way to end racism) would not have been possible. Even while their involvement made interracial cooperation a reality, they also began to question its effectiveness when they realized white women in the movement urged friendship between people they could not embrace as equal. Black women’s critique led to interracialism being relegated to the sidelines of the struggle against racism.
The research into the YWCA archives is indispensable because all of the women in the book worked for the YWCA in local and national offices and helped develop the YWCA’s official position on race relations, helping the YWCA become one of the biggest proponents of interracialism in the United States. Unfortunately, many of the relevant archival materials were destroyed after being microfilmed. She and Luther research assistant Emily England have combed through the microfilm, but she remains hopeful that she will find one of those gems at Smith that make archival research so rewarding.