Significant Steps in Development of the IRB Project 2003-2017

List of Persons Key to Early Development

Read this article Documenting African Americans' contributions from 2005 in the Johns Hopkins Magazine, for a description of the early development of the project. 

2003 -2008

  • April Land, president of Black Student Union asked Joyce Mason, black staff member in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, what the library was planning in honor of Black History Month
  •  Mason confers with librarian Sharon Morris and the decision was made not to have the library quickly cobble together something but to involve the BSU students in planning something meaningful and lasting throughout the year.  We were cognizant of an earlier protest from the Black Student Union at the library over an exhibit of the Birney Papers during a previous Black History Month
  • Mason & Morris confer with John Morris (spouse) and BFSA president (Deborah Savage).  We decide a vehicle to develop a more complete record of the contributions and value provided by the presence of African Americans at Hopkins would be appropriate.

We promptly involved JHU Black Faculty (Dr. Franklin Knight, Africana Studies Center) and The Fred Scott Brigade (activist black alumni group whose chief organizer is Michael Smith and FSB member, historian Barbara Wyche) to flesh out a plan and to organize a timeline of significant events involving Black people and the University

  • Dr. Franklin Knight and Dr. Melanie Shell-Weiss recruit students who interviewed for course credit Black faculty and staff who had made considerable contributions to the university.  With those research projects and the timeline, we created a website to house the material. That project was active from about 2003 to 2008.

The original website, The History of African Americans @ Johns Hopkins University.  See an additional story on the project in the Johns Hopkins University Arts & Sciences Magazine Online Spring, 2008.


  • Deborah Savage, BFSA president, asked President Daniels at our annual meeting with the president what message was being sent to prospective students and parents, visitors when they only see white males on walls around the University
  • Task force was formed and BFSA proposed to pick up where the History of African American project left off and expand it.  Through the earlier project, we had stories, and names of African Americans who have made notable contributions to Hopkins and the Black community
  • From an initial list of about 45 names, decided to add individuals (inductees) each year to a new website showcasing Black excellence
  • Project named Indispensable Role of Blacks (suggested by John Morris).  Sharon Morris headed the committee, asked Anita Norton, Sheridan Libraries, to co-chair.  BFSA committee employed a professional writer for profiles to be available on a website.  Profile writers, Dianna Spencer, followed by Tracey Reeves, followed by Mame Warren. 

Also, commissioned a physical travelling exhibit and decals (Travelling exhibit was retired in 2016)


  • Wall images - Improve the project’s visibility on all campuses through branded, attractive, easily rotated wall displays
  • President Daniels asked Dean Tabb in his role as Vice Provost for the Arts to work with the BFSA Indispensable Role of Blacks at JHU Committee.  Dean Tabb asked Jackie O’Regan, Curator of Cultural Properties, to join the team. The design team (Morris, Norton, O’Regan, Meredith Shelby) worked with a black designer (Tiffany Small) to create a design.  Graphic design firm First Floor Graphics produces the graphics and handles the rotations.
  • Jackie O’Regan works with various JHU schools to display images from the project around the University

Key Players in the early development of the IRB

Fred Scott Brigade - Activist alumni group self-formed by the Black JHU students from the 1970’s. The group chose the name to honor the first Black student to graduate from JHU in 1950.

Franklin Knight - Faculty member who served as advisor and directed the students during the phase of the project when students conducted interviews and submitted projects for credit.

April Land – President of the Black Student Union whose query in 2003 about the library’s salute to Black History Month sparked a new way of thinking about honoring Black history.

Joyce Mason – Milton S. Eisenhower Library staff member who received initial query from April Land and contributed to the initial project History of African Americans at JHU.

John Morris – Credited with the idea to showcase excellence of Black Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Students.  Suggested the name Indispensable Role of Blacks at Johns Hopkins

Sharon Morris – Chaired the various iterations of the project from 2003-2022, Library Manager, Sheridan Libraries

Anita Norton – Co-chaired the IRB project 2011-2023, Library Manager, Sheridan Libraries

Jackie O’Regan – Curator of Cultural Properties, Sheridan Libraries joined the visibility design team to bring images from the project to the walls around JHU.

Tracey Reeves – Wrote the profiles 2012-2015.

Deborah Savage – BFSA president who pushed to have persons of color represented on the walls of JHU.

Meredith Shelby – Library Staff member who provided valuable assistance in launching the Wall Panels project

Melanie Shell-Weiss – Faculty member who along with Dr. Knight supervised students’ projects

Tiffany Small- MICA student selected to design various IRB logos for the visibility project

Michael Smith – Host of the Fred Scott Brigade, who as a group provided insight to the history of Blacks at JHU and were early supporters of the project. ’73 MA

Mame Warren – Historian/Writer wrote the profiles of IRB inductees 2016-2022

Barbara Wyche- ’72 Sociologist, member of the Fred Scott Brigade, in the class of first Black women to enter Hopkins.  Contributed and organized the timeline and research information developed for History of Blacks @ JHU


Task Force Committee – Appointed by President Daniels, members of the 2011-2012 group who selected original inductees, provided vision for moving forth with IRB

Mo Baldwin

Bonnie Horning

Caroline Laguerre-Brown

Lizette Johnson

Sharon Morris

Annie Powell

Tracey Reeves

Debbie Savage

Glenn Simmons

Rita Walters

Risha Zuckerman