Ferrum College Graduate Micah Allen ’22 Traced the History of the Black Student Union (BSU)

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Ferrum College Graduate Micah Allen ’22 Traced the History of the Black Student Union (BSU)

Micah AllenHe came and went like the wind. Determined. Driven. Focused. Quiet. Unassuming. “When he was here, he was in the zone,” said Rachel Walton, Interlibrary Loan Coordinator/Technical Services Assistant at Stanley Library. “He was dedicated to his project.”

The person is Micah Allen, a 2022 Ferrum College graduate who majored in history and political science, from Goochland County—just outside Richmond. The project was tracing the history of the Black Student Union (BSU) at Ferrum College and the inclusion of Black students in general. He mined old, bound volumes of the campus newspaper the Iron Blade from the late 60s to early 80s, identifying anything related to the BSU, scanning and transcribing the articles as he moved through them.

The work was similar to a project he undertook with the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum. The BRIM project focused on digitizing all of the Appalachian folktales and stories collected by the folklorist James Taylor Adams in the 1940s, saving them all in the digital archives, and posting them all on Professor of English Tina Hanlon’s AppLit website.  Hanlon’s website site, AppLit: Resources for Readers and Teachers of Literature for Children and Young Adults, has been up and running for 20 years and has won the Appalachian Studies Association’s e-Appalachia award in the past.

“I scanned and transcribed the folk stories,” Allen said. “I first got one of the stories and then scanned it using a printer to get it onto the computer. After the scanning process, I then transcribed what I just scanned onto a word document, word-for-word, to the best of my abilities.”

Bethany Worley, BRIM Director, sang Allen’s praises on the project. “Micah was such a pleasure to work with,” she said. “He was detail oriented, which is a must when working with archival materials. I appreciated his enthusiasm for the special collection of folktales, history, and folksongs of the James Taylor Adams collection.”

For his part, Allen relished the undertaking. “I enjoyed my time working at the BRIM and doing this project because I saw it as preserving the history of the region,” Allen said. “Doing this allows future generations to be able to learn about their home and culture.”

Allen’s main interest, however, seemed to be his Stanley Library internship and the BSU/Iron Blade research he conducted. “I found some interesting editorials written in the Iron Blades in the early 80s dealing with the Black Student Union getting more funding than other groups on campus,” he said. “I found them interesting just to see the individual arguments being made for why they are getting more money than other school organizations.”

At some point, he said, the BSU apparently disbanded on campus. “I have not found if or when the BSU dissolved,” Allen said. “I was told that there was a point where they kind of just disappeared, but now I have seen that they are back. I hoped the further I went into my research, I would be able to find the answer.”

As is the case with many students, Allen underwent a time of growth here at Ferrum. “He was definitely one of our Class of 2022 star graduating seniors in the history major, and I have had the luck to watch him grow,” said Assistant Professor of History Michael Hancock-Parmer. “Micah arrived as a shy, typically insecure freshman student—maybe convinced that he was just going to see things through, not sure of what he was going to be capable of. Somewhere along the road, he came into his own.”

Fellow Assistant Professor of History Nicole Greer Golda echoed the sentiments. “Micah really blossomed in his years at Ferrum and developed a deep knowledge of our recent past, especially African American history,” Greer Golda said. “His senior seminar research into the meanings of democracy in the United States for African Americans during World War I demonstrated his commitment to preserving a wide array of sources.”

Allen plans to continue his education at J. Sargeant Reynolds in Richmond and study as a paralegal.

Article written and contributed by Assistant Professor of English & Journalism David B. Campbell.