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Invisible Founders: How Two Centuries of African American Families Transformed a Plantation into a College

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Invisible Founders

How Two Centuries of African American Families Transformed a Plantation into a College

Lynn Rainville

232 pages, 22 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-231-1 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (June 2019)

ISBN  978-1-80073-444-9 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (April 2022)

eISBN 978-1-78920-232-8 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook! $34.95info on epub formatRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


Invisible Founders is a different kind of history of the university and the Black past than most of those published in the past few years, but that is one that has much to offer individuals who are working to bring this history to light at their own institutions.” • Journal of Southern History


Literal and metaphorical excavations at Sweet Briar College reveal how African American labor enabled the transformation of Sweet Briar Plantation into a private women’s college in 1906. This volume tells the story of the invisible founders of a college founded by and for white women. Despite being built and maintained by African American families, the college did not integrate its student body for sixty years after it opened. In the process, Invisible Founders challenges our ideas of what a college “founder” is, restoring African American narratives to their deserved and central place in the story of a single institution — one that serves as a microcosm of the American South.

Lynn Rainville is Director of Institutional History and Professor of Anthropology at Washington and Lee University and former Dean of Sweet Briar College.. For over two decades she has studied the lives of exceptional, yet overlooked, Americans. This work has been supported by numerous grants and she has written five books (on Mesopotamian houses, African American cemeteries, Sweet Briar College, and Virginia’s role in World War I). She directs the Tusculum Institute for local history and historic preservation at Sweet Briar College.

Subject: ArchaeologyHistory (General)Educational StudiesHeritage Studies
Area: North America


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