A History of Racism, Prejudice, and Social In/justice at Vanderbilt University Medical Center: An Archival Assessment of Labor, Relations, and Race
Yates, McKenzie Lavern
In 2020 the Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Racial Equity Task Force was created in order to dismantle structural racism and grapple with the institution’s historical injustices that were brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic and racial violence. Among the committee’s recommendations was the idea to create a task force to collect and share Vanderbilt’s history of racism, discrimination, and social justice efforts. Universities across the country have begun embarking on self-investigative journeys in order to face inconsistencies and problems within their legacy in hopes of reconciling with past racial injustices to cultivate racially equitable futures. This project is a production of student research conducted in Vanderbilt’s archival collection located in the Eskind Biomedical Library. This thesis utilizes speculative methods and broader historical context to situate archival data in order to analyze and interpret Vanderbilt University’s relationships with its Black community members, primarily students and staff. This thesis contains pertinent background information about the institution, the status of Black Americans, and Affirmative Action policy to support the reader’s knowledge of the related concepts. Additionally, this work includes a critical literature review explaining the methodology of historical archival research. The results of this research produce two useful cases for analyzing Vanderbilt’s actions resulting from the intersection of race and labor: Black janitorial staff robbing cemeteries to satisfy the University’s cadaver demand and the Institution’s disregard for appropriate Affirmative Action protocol implementation. These two examples work together in this manner to illuminate themes of exploitation, narrative manipulation, and the maintenance of white supremacy.