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Roberts Center

Roberts Center

The Joseph Jenkins Roberts Center was founded by Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander and the department of History to serve as a center of excellence for the study of the African Diaspora at Norfolk State University. The center has put on a number of academic and local history conferences related to historic anniversaries of events central to the African-American community. The center is currently directed by Drs. Stephanie Richmond and Patrick Mbajekwe. 

The center's mission is: Dedicated to the exploration and analysis of the history and culture of African people and to those who were part of the Diaspora, the Center affords opportunities to scholars to study and disseminate the story of Africans’ migration around the globe from centuries ago to the present day. - Roberts Center brochure


Sold Down River

Between 1800 and 1860, over 21,000 Virginians were sold to New Orleans via the domestic slave trade. This project seeks to identify and trace the men, women and children taken from their families and sold into the Mississippi River Valley. This project is a collaboration between the Roberts Center, Sargent Memorial Collection at Norfolk Public Libraries and Roadstead Montessori High School.

1619: The Making of America

The organizing committee of the 1619: The Making of America conferences consists of scholars and community leaders dedicated to remembering the events and legacies of 1619 and bringing awareness to issues of race, gender, law and culture that derive from the meeting of the cultures that shaped our nation.

The Underground Railroad in Virginia

The Underground Railroad in Virginia website explores the partnerships and routes that ran through Virginia. It examines the wharves, steamships, and schooners on which fugitives departed. It explores the safe houses that were used, the conductors who assisted, the routes that were taken, and the enslaved African Americans who ran away.

Roberts Center Projects
The Roberts Center Staff are currently working on securing funding for projects related to mapping the Underground Railroad, Virginia Emigrants to Liberia, Sold Down River, and several smaller projects. If you are interested in collaborating with the center on a project, please contact the project staff.

1619 Roundtable
Constructing Citizenship from 1619 to the 1964 Civil Rights Act: A 50-Year Commemorative Scholars Roundtable. On April 17, 2014, the Center sponsored a roundtable discussion on the 50th Anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, with Cox Communications as co-sponsor. The roundtable and question and answer session were filmed by Cox and are available on their On-Demand channel and aired on local channel 11.

1619 Roundtable
1619 Roundtable


The center is accepting applications for student interns for Spring and Summer 2023. We have three projects available for interns:

  • Sold Down River: Students will work with Dr. Richmond and Norfolk Public Libraries archives staff to identify and trace victims of the domestic slave trade sold from Norfolk to New Orleans from 1800 to 1860.
  • Podcast on history and culture in Hampton Roads and beyond. Students will choose a topic from a curated list, research and draft a script for a short audio podcast and provide supplemental web content. After editing, students will have the opportunity to record their episode and edit it with the assistance of center staff.
  • Virginia Emigrants to Liberia: This large project has several opportunities for students to assist in creating a database of information on Virginians who emigrated to Liberia between 1820 and 1860. Students will search digitized primary sources, make calendars and encode documents, transcribe sources and conduct other research on individuals who moved across the Atlantic.

If you are interested in working on either of these projects, please contact Dr. Stephanie Richmond at with a cover letter and resume.