Angelina Lincoln ’18 CLAS, ’20 MA, garnered local media attention in the spring of 2020 with her research into the life of William Moulden. The Moulden name is well known at Villanova thanks to the Moulden Residential Hall on West Campus. But beyond the fact that the Mouldens, the first known Black Catholics in the area, donated money and land to the University in 1886, the family’s history has remained largely a mystery. Lincoln, who started researching the Moulden family for an assignment and continues this work as University researcher with Judith Giesberg, PhD, is bringing the family into new historical focus. Lincoln’s work was profiled by the Philadelphia Inquirer, and, now, her research is evolving into a University-sponsored project to uncover more of the history of the relationship between Villanova and minority communities in the region.
William Moulden’s 1886 bequest of his $10,000 farm to his friend the Rev. Francis M. Sheeran, OSA, was especially significant given the fact that Moulden was a Black man born to enslaved parents. As Lincoln writes, “At a time when Black men were losing ground, when their rights were slipping away and white men turned their backs on them, Moulden found some who did not.” These men were the Augustinian friars of Villanova.
Determined to produce a complete history of Villanova that recognizes the contributions of William Moulden and others, the Rev. Peter Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS, University President, has earmarked significant funds to continue this research. Deemed “The Rooted Project,” after Lincoln’s original paper title, this venture will consider the relationship of Villanova to minority communities in the Main Line and the Philadelphia region. According to Dr. Giesberg, who will serve as the Rooted Project’s first director, “The Rooted Project” also “seeks to institutionalize the history of Black Catholic groups, such as the Oblate Sisters of Providence, who are firmly rooted in the school’s past but who have yet to be fully incorporated into its official history.”
The Department of History eagerly looks forward to lending its efforts to this project. Along with Dr. Giesberg, Craig Bailey, PhD, and Shannen Williams, PhD, will serve as Project Directors in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 respectively. “The Rooted Project” will provide extraordinary opportunities for Graduate students in history to take part in this critical research and give all students, prospective students and alumni at Villanova a sense of place and belonging.