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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.

The Racial History of Amherst College

In the Amherst College Anti-Racism Plan, released on 3 August 2020, President Biddy Martin noted the need for a historical study of the College’s ties to slaveholding and to capital accumulation based on slavery. In addition, she called for a racial history of the college extending into present times. To coordinate and disseminate research on the college’s racial past, President Martin formed a Steering Committee on the Racial History of Amherst College.

As part of this work, the committee developed a website, A Racial History of Amherst College. As the website explains,

"The first cohort of Research Assistants have spent the first part of the Spring 2021 semester reviewing some of the resources on college history and race that already exist, such as the Amherst in the World volume of essays prepared for the Bicentennial. Each student brings their own perspective to this work and will be sharing their thoughts through our blog. We hope that these posts will spark discussion within the community and guide readers to further reading and resources.

Over time we hope that this site will expand to include a wide range of resources, data, and digital humanities visualizations that help the whole community engage with the good, bad, and the ugly aspects of college history. In all of this work, we hope to demonstrate the unique role colleges and universities have to play in the national conversation about race. This passage from the Introduction to Slavery and Justice: Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice neatly summarizes that role."

This partnership with Ancestral Bridges provides an opportunity to expand on some of the work that has been done through the Racial History of Amherst College to more fully document the lives of some of the College's first Black staff members. Their stories have been largely absent from the official records and documented history of the College, in spite of the vital support they have always provided to students and faculty at the college.