Lincoln University Students Engage Retirement Community in Civil Rights Discussion

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Students Present Research as Part of Heritage Project

LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa. - Lincoln University students presented research on civil rights and Chester County at the first roundtable discussion in a series hosted by Kendal at Longwood on February 23 to 30 attendees.

Sophomore English liberal arts majors Eric Hilliard of Washington, D.C., and Jabir McKnight from Philadelphia along with Veronica Carr ’16 presented their research specialties, and two Kendal respondents guided a discussion with the audience.

The students spoke of Lincoln University’s ongoing mission to promote the common good and advance social equity.

Reflecting on what he had learned about the career of Frederick Douglass, Hilliard said, “Douglass was a man who worked to advance the progressive values of the country, and he has inspired me to dream big and make a lasting contribution.”


Participants and attendees at the civil rights discussion on Wednesday, February 23, 2017, at Kendal at Longwood in Kennett Square, Pa., from front left are Philip Merrill, Marilyn Button, Jeanette Page, and Betty Warner. Back row: Jabir McKnight, Susannah Davison, Veronica Carr, Eric Hilliard, and Betty Merrill. (Photo courtesy of Marilyn Button)

The community outreach program highlighted Lincoln University’s role in promoting civil rights in Chester County by training students to become civic leaders and activists.

As part of their regular course load, the student presenters, called Heritage Scholars, are enrolled in an independent study course called “Lincoln University Global Heritage and Legacy,” and commit to research, writing essays, and giving presentations about Lincoln's heritage. The course culminates in Heritage Tours of the campus later in the spring.

The program is an outgrowth of a proposal developed under a Faculty Development Grant by Dr. Marilyn Button, professor and chairwoman of the Department of Languages and Literature, to promote student awareness of the Lincoln University legacy and heritage.

“Heritage studies open doors to almost every academic subject and engages students on many levels: original research, community involvement, and personal enrichment. Students sign up for this work because they genuinely want to know more about the university and share their knowledge with others,” Button said.

The University Faculty Development Grants are intended to develop curriculum, faculty interests, and the university strategic goals. Learning about the Lincoln legacy is one of the University’s 2016-17 Institutional Learning Outcomes described in the General Education requirements.

The first Heritage Faculty Development Grant in 2015-16, titled "Treasure to Treasure: Old West Baltimore and the Lincoln University Alumni Connection," was undertaken in consultation with Dr. Philip J. Merrill, author, researcher, and nationally recognized historian of African American material culture. Merrill, whom Button called “an ardent supporter of Lincoln students,” allowed students to use Nanny Jack & Co., his unique archive collection, for their research.

After the roundtable, "If I ever doubted the vision for a Lincoln Heritage Center, the keen interest; inquisitiveness; and thirst for more information about Lincoln's history that was exhibited at Kendal confirmed not just a desire for it, but the absolute need," Merrill said. "The time could not be better."

Carr’s research has explored the impact and legacy of prominent Lincoln University alumni and their connection to Old West Baltimore.

“Two experiences showed me the importance of documenting and preserving Lincoln's heritage and legacy: my internship with Nanny Jack & Co. and my work on a National Endowment for the Humanities heritage grant,” Carr said. “I hope to be instrumental in the creation of a Lincoln University Heritage Center that will accomplish this goal.”  

McKnight agreed, saying, “To truly understand something we must know the history. It is of the upmost importance that we preserve and share the legacies of those who laid a foundation for us.”

The Kendal at Longwood series is open to the Kendal community and visitors are welcome. Kendal’s Betty Warner serves as chairwoman of the Intergenerational Committee, which sponsored the event.

Kendal-Crosslands Retirement Communities are located in Kennett Square and provide continuing retirement care 17 miles from Lincoln University. They emphasize the Quaker values of equality and respect for all individuals.

According to the Kendal website, the Intergenerational Committee encourages residents and staff to be involved in the larger community, where they develop new friendships across generations and with people from diverse ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Article by Shelley Mix. Photo courtesy of Marilyn Button.