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Ancestral Bridges

“Ancestral Bridges: Celebrating Black and Afro-Indigenous families who lived and worked in Amherst in the 18th through early 20th centuries,” an exhibit of historical photographs and artifacts, will be on view in Frost Library through the summer of 2024.

Ancestral Bridges - Welcome

Ancestral Bridges, an Exhibit of Historical Photographs & Artifacts, is on view in Frost Library's Mezzanine Gallery from February 9, 2023 - Summer 2024. This exhibition celebrates Black and Afro Indigenous families who lived and worked in Amherst in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

Use the tabs on the left to navigate through the different photos included in the Ancestral Bridges exhibition and to find more information about the people in the photographs. This information has been compiled by Anika Lopes and other family and community members.

Artist's Statement

Let me introduce you to my ancestors, generations of Black and Afro-Indigenous residents of Amherst. They lived in the historically Black, west-end neighborhood around Hazel Avenue, on only one side of the train tracks. Some worked at Amherst College, serving meals on dishes that depicted Lord Jeffery Amherst shooting at Indians, while they mentored and befriended students. They started businesses and churches, they provided homes to Black people newly arrived from the South, they performed jazz music internationally, and they were denied scholarships, jobs, and opportunities due to systemic racism.

This exhibit, the first partnership between the Ancestral Bridges Foundation and Amherst College, seeks to center this long-neglected aspect of town history and to reveal the rich and complex lives of the Black and Afro-Indigenous community of Amherst. Our families’ old black-and-white photographs complement oral histories—some yet to be recorded—and other artifacts available locally and at the College. I hope these images and stories raise questions, prompt further research, and challenge us all to meet our collective responsibility to build a more just and equitable future.

In health and harmony,
Anika Lopes
Founder, Ancestral Bridges