Enoch with Science Equipment, 1950s
Authored by Sarah Jane Kline ’21 in “Who is Included? Black Staff and Study at Davidson College“
last updated 02.09.2021
Similarly, to “Man Sitting Pumping Up a Ball” (1925), in “Enoch With Science Equipment” (1950s), the location of Black staff and personnel on Davidson’s campus reveals the extent to which they were inherently involved in Black study at Davidson but simultaneously operated at the periphery of its conceptualization. This photograph, to me, performs its own afterlife. This afterlife is one in which Enoch exits this academic space promptly before the entrance of white students and faculty. I look closely at the apron Enoch wears as a representation of his status as a worker on Davidson’s campus but also as a marker that perhaps blurs the lines between staff and faculty who both might wear an apron when in a laboratory setting (“Enoch with science equipment,” 1950s). However, Giduz (1990) writes in his “Before the Classroom” article in the Davidson Journal, “a custodian in the chemistry building, started working here for $18 a week in 1949. Although … a lab technician, he also did janitorial work and was considered – and paid – as a janitor” (p. 17). This textual moment demonstrates the actual qualifications of members of the janitorial staff such as Enoch who clearly participated heavily in the operation of scientific study at Davidson without the recognition or representation, and I add, compensation. Along these lines, I call attention to the way Enoch poses in this photo, and more specifically, the extension or position of his arm reaching out to touch the glass beakers (“Enoch with science equipment,” 1950s). The position of his arm expresses his ability to exert a level of control over these scientific materials. His movement recognizes his existence in this space. He potentially shows us, through his pose, that without him, those beakers would not be there, and consequently, scientific study in that lab would not be possible.
“Enoch With Science Equipment” (1950s) then begs the question about what specific groundwork Enoch laid for thinking about the ways in which Black bodies are essential to study raising additional questions about how Enoch’s body in this specific scientific space and his control over the materials pushes back against the notion that Black study is thought work only. Specifically, I read his stance as a powerful renunciation of the use of science to deliberately oppress Black people and Black bodies. English (2018) explains that “Du Bois was certainly not alone in his resistance to eugenics and science-based white supremacy; there is a long and distinguished history of challenges to such racist science” (p. 191). With English’s broadening of the radical resistance to racialized science, I position this photo of Enoch, and thus Enoch himself, as within that a long history of Black intellectuals who reclaim science and scientific thought. Indeed, through this photograph, Enoch provides the viewer with, as English (2018) writes, “alternative times or realities” in which scientific thought and spaces are controlled by Black bodies and minds to “imagine and represent greater justice and a freer expression” of Black staff as Black studiers and framers of a legitimate Black study to come (p. 193).
Certainly, Enoch had been studying the particularities and necessities of these materials in this academic space, but he was also crucial to this space’s operation, as I noted earlier. Consequently, then, I posit that a crucial irony is revealed through Enoch’s existence within this space: thinking about Black study at Davidson without recognizing or considering the Black bodies who laid its groundwork and supported it. Furthermore, it is the irony of thinking about Black study as only involving Black students and faculty and lacking a capacious understanding of the word “study” and a capacious understanding of Black study’s alternativeinception at Davidson. As I mentioned, Enoch poses in this photograph, betraying the idea that he was not important as a staff member because he was important enough for someone to take a photograph of him, a photograph that lays bare his positionality as a producer of and site for analysis of Black study. Here, I turn to Raiford’s (2011) idea of black visuality which she writes “is inextricable from African American movements’ efforts to change the conditions of black people’s lives” (p. 27). It is Enoch who puts himself into a position of visibility that frames our understanding of what Black study looked like in the mid-twentieth century. We know that “the 1950s brought more calls for change” on Davidson’s campus starting with the 1942 decision to put a large “gift fund toward negro education” (DCASC, “Always Part of the Fabric: A Supplement, 1901-1962,” n.d.). This emphasis on recognizing “negro education” is the legacy Enoch builds upon to “change the conditions,” which I argue is seen through his powerful, and theoretically radical, existence in this academic space. Particularly in light of the 1950s decision of Brown v. The Board of Education that deemed racial segregation unconstitutional. Enoch might then embody a sort of national call for change and recognition considering Enoch’s dominant, radical presence in a predominantly white physical and intellectual space.