Friday, March 23, 2018

URSP Student Farhaj Murshed Hopes to Uncover the Past and Founding of George Mason University

What got me interested in the Legacy of Slavery at George Mason University Project was the fact that it was about time we address our history. Recently, I was able to work on the Enslaved Children of George Mason Summer Research Project where we began to tell the stories of enslaved black men, women, and children at our university’s namesake’s home of Gunston Hall. Now, we want to continue our innovative work by uncovering the lives of the possibly enslaved people on our campus, while also learning the reasoning behind why our institution was named after George Mason IV and how Virginia's policies of massive resistance and the Jim Crow era played a role in the founding of our university. I see this project being related to my long-term goals as I hope to conduct data-oriented health research, and building off my focus in the Summer, I hope to implement these techniques to focus on the health and wellness of the enslaved people that were most likely on this campus. On a weekly basis, what I’m doing varies, but essentially, I’ve been conducting secondary literature reading, such as “Democracy in Chains” and visiting the Fairfax County Historical Court House Records Office, attempting to use Fairfax County property records as well as old maps to determine what existed on the land where our campus is now. I will also use those property records to determine who owned the land that our campus is built on. If I can find names of the people who owned the land, I can then use wills and probate records to find out names of people that would have been enslaved on the land where we now go to school. Lastly, one thing I discovered this term is how to work backwards to see who owned what pieces of land. At the Courthouse, we are conducting a “chain of title,” and are trying to find out which tax maps the land of Mason sits on in the city (town) of Fairfax. This process is essential in archival work like the one we are conducting and is a useful life skill for any research.