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Gerald R. Gill Papers

Call Number: MS170

Scope and Contents

The Gerald R. Gill papers consist primarily of professional papers relating to his career as a professor of American history at Tufts University (1980-2007). His papers include correspondence, research and subject files, teaching materials, records of university service, and writings. The collection also includes biographical materials, audiovisual materials, photographs, and objects. Photographs chiefly document Black student life at Tufts, the bulk apparently sent to Gill by Black alumni. There are also photographs of Gill, often at university events. Audiovisual materials include Black alumni oral histories. Digital files include student papers, teaching materials, event programs and fliers, and university memos.

Research and subject files, teaching materials, and writings reveal Gill’s research interests, which focused on African-American history. Topics include the history of protest, the civil rights movement, pacifism, American sports history, Boston race relations, and the experience of Black faculty, staff, and students at Tufts. Teaching materials contain syllabi, class handouts, course readings, exams, assignments, and papers, some of which consist of oral histories conducted by students about the civil rights movement. Gill’s university service records detail his work for many Tufts committees and his extensive undergraduate mentoring and advising duties. The bulk of the materials in this collection date from the 1980s-2007, with a small amount of material from the 1950s-1980s.


  • Creation: 1921 -- 2007
  • Creation: Majority of material found within circa 1980s -- 2007



This collection contains some restricted material. Restrictions related to specific material are listed in the detailed contents list.

Conditions Governing Use

Some material in this collection may be protected by copyright and other rights. Please see “Reproductions and Use” on the Digital Collections and Archives website for more information about reproductions and permission to publish. Any intellectual property rights that the donor possesses have been transferred to Tufts University.

Biographical / Historical

Gerald R. Gill (1948-2007) taught American history at Tufts University from 1980-2007. He began as an assistant professor, served as an associate professor beginning in 1987, and became the history department’s deputy chair in 1998. He was a leading scholar in the field of African-American history and the history of the civil rights movement. He was also a founding and core member of several interdisciplinary programs at Tufts, including American Studies, Africa in the New World Studies, and Peace and Justice Studies.

Gill was born on November 18, 1948 in New Rochelle, New York, to Robert and Etta Gill. He received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1970 from Lafayette College, where he was one of the founders of Lafayette’s Association of Black Collegians and the Black Cultural Center. He then earned a master’s degree in United States history (1974) and a doctorate in history (1985) from Howard University in Washington D.C. A conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, Gill wrote his dissertation on the history of twentieth-century African-American pacifism.

Gill taught at Howard University (1975-1978), University of the District of Columbia (1978), Harvard University (1979), and UCLA (1986), in addition to Tufts University (1980-2007). He received a number of teaching awards and honors, including Professor of the Year for Massachusetts (twice, in 1995 and 1999); the Lerman-Neubauer Prize for Outstanding Teaching and Advising (1998); the Tufts Community Union Senate’s Professor of the Year Award (1999); and the Lillian and Joseph Leibner Award for Distinguished Teaching and Advising (1993). The Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Tufts Community, bestowed on Gill in 2000 by the university’s Africana Center, was renamed the Gerald R. Gill Distinguished Service Award in his honor the same year. He was also awarded research fellowships at the W.E.B. Dubois Institute at Harvard (1979), the Center for Afro-American Studies at U.C.L.A. (1985), and a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture (1997).

Gill’s university service included membership on many committees, particularly those related to undergraduate education and advising. In addition to teaching, mentoring students, and writing, Gill served as a consultant on many public television and documentary projects, including Eyes on the Prize, The American Experience, Africans in America, This Far by Faith, and I'll Make Me a World. He was the author of Meanness Mania: The Changed Mood (1980), co-authored The Case for Affirmative Action for Blacks in Higher Education (1978), edited the Faculty Guide and Student Study Guide for the Eyes on the Prize (1991), and co-edited The Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights Reader (1991). At the time of his death, he was working on two unpublished books: Struggling Yet in Freedom’s Birthplace: The Civil Rights Movement in Boston, 1935-1972, a history of Boston race relations; and Dissent, Discontent and Disinterest: Afro-American Opposition to the United States War of the Twentieth Century, an extension of his doctoral dissertation.

Gill was divorced with one daughter, Ayanna Gill. He died in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on July 26, 2007.


59.86 Linear Feet (46 record cartons, 2 document boxes, and 2 oversize boxes)

575.2 Megabytes

18,443 Digital Object(s) (15,505 email messages with 1,922 attachments; 1,016 born-digital files. )

Language of Materials



Gerald R. Gill was a professor of American history at Tufts University from 1980 until his death in 2007. His research interests included African-American history, the history of the civil rights movement, pacifism, and the black student experience at Tufts. His papers document his teaching, research, university service, and scholarly activities, and include correspondence, subject files, teaching materials, and writings. There are also biographical materials, audiovisual materials, and photographs.


This collection is arranged in ten series: Audiovisual materials and photographs; Biographical materials; Correspondence; Events; Objects; Research and subject files; Teaching materials; University service; Writings; and Digital files.

Physical Location

Boxes 42-50 (barcodes 39090017051935 through 39090017052024) are stored in locations 39090015755024g through 39090015755040g.

Custodial History

After Gill’s death in 2007, Digital Collections and Archives (DCA) staff packed up his office in East Hall and moved items to the East Hall basement. Lawyers for Ayanna Gill packed up personal materials for return to her at the same time. One of Gill’s previous offices had been packed up by the History Department at an unknown point in the past and had also been stored in the East Hall basement. DCA also packed up books and manuscripts in Gill’s apartment. Materials now in Box 50, including a manuscript for Dissent, Discontent, and Disinterest: Afro-American Opposition to the United States Wars of the 20th Century and editor's comments were brought to DCA by Susanne Belovari, Archivist for Reference and Collections, in 2007. The remaining materials stayed in the East Hall basement until a deed of gift was signed in September 2016 and the materials were delivered to DCA by Personal Movers on October 18, 2016. Two further accruals, of five and four boxes, were transferred to DCA on November 29, 2016 and December 13, 2016 by Dan Santamaria, University Archivist, and Adrienne Pruitt, Collections Management Archivist.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ayanna Gill, 2016, accession 2017.030.

Related Materials

Africana Center Records, 1969-2012. Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

Jeanne Penvenne Papers on Gerald Gill, circa 1995-2007. Tufts University. Digital Collections and Archives. Medford, MA.

Separated Materials

58 boxes (69.6 cubic feet) of books, serial publications, and commercially produced VHS tapes, DVDs, and CDs were transferred to Tisch Library.

10 boxes (12 cubic feet) of family and personal belongings, and items with monetary value such as gift cards and historical ephemera and memorabilia, were separated for potential return to the donor.

50 boxes (60 cubic feet)of course reserves, student work, review copies, publications, office supplies, and materials containing personally identifiable information were separated for deaccession or destruction pending donor review.

Processing Information

Materials were received in very little order. Where groupings of materials could be discerned, original order was maintained, particularly in the research and subject files and teaching materials.

Duplicates, reference copies, blank forms, unused office supplies, personal and family items, and some personnel and student records were separated for deaccession. For more detailed information, please see series notes.

This collection is processed at the folder level. Stefana Breitwieser, Steven Gentry, and Sony Prosper, Archives and Reference Assistants, processed the materials under the direction of Adrienne Pruitt, Collections Management Archivist, in Spring 2017.

In April 2021 this finding aid was reviewed for offensive description by Collections Management Archivist Adrienne Pruitt. The word “Black” was capitalized when used to refer to an identity or race.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

Part of the Tufts Archival Research Center Repository

35 Professors Row
Tisch Library Building
Tufts University
Medford Massachusetts 02155 United States