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Black Student Union and Afro-American Society Records

 Collection
Identifier: MC-218

Scope and Contents

This collection documents two prominent student organizations at Williams College: The Afro-American Society and the Black Student Union (active since 1972). The materials date from 1959 to 2012. Much of the collection consists of correspondence, essays, poetry, newsletters, press releases, news articles, meeting minutes, publications, event flyers and promotional material, career pamphlets, invoices, brochures, notes and agendas all relating to these two student organizations, college administrators and the campus community, as well as African American student organizations at other colleges within the New England area and beyond. Materials of note reflect on-campus efforts to encourage civil rights advocacy, outreach and awareness, and the cultivation of a strong and united African American community at Williams College. Examples of this can be seen through the organization’s proposals and demands for change within the college administration to better represent and provide equal opportunities for black students as well as news articles and publications detailing events, plans, and acts of protest, such as the Hopkins Hall Occupation of 1969 and the Snack Bar Occupation of 1972. The collection also contains materials related to the BSU’s publication titled Pamoja Tutashinda, active primarily during the 1960s and 1970s. The essays and accompanying correspondence letters found within this collection are primarily materials submitted to the staff of Pamoja Tutashinda from members of the black community from all over the country. These submissions are comprised of essays and poetry detailing the experiences of African Americans of the late twentieth century and early twenty first century. This collection provides a wide variety of materials that highlight the activities, and personal stories of a highly under represented group of people on a college campus, and specifically at Williams.

Dates

  • Other: 1959 - 2012

Creator

Language of Materials

In English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Black Student Union and Afro-American Society Records are open for research. Researchers are encouraged to contact Special Collections staff prior to a visit.

Conditions Governing Use

In consultation with Special Collections staff, reproductions may be made upon request. Please consult with staff regarding questions about publishing materials from Williams Special Collections. Researchers are responsible for handling any copyright issues that may be associated with collections and materials.

Biographical / Historical

The Williams College Afro-American Society (WAAS) was founded in 1967 by the only black students enrolled at Williams: John H. Gladney, Jr.; David E. Jackson; Clarence S. Wilson, Jr.; and Don Jackson (Don Jackson did not graduate from Williams but still played a pivotal role in the establishment of the WAAS). In light of major national events at the time such as the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and the war in Vietnam, the WAAS was propelled into action. After observing the lives of black students at other colleges such as Yale, Columbia, Dartmouth, Oberlin and Simmons, on March 12, 1969 the WAAS drew up a proposal with a list of potential solutions to the problems of institutional racism at Williams, including lack of representation in faculty, administration and curriculum. In the Spring of 1969 following the creation of this proposal, the WAAS and Williams faculty met to discuss the proposal and the WAAS leaders felt as though their concerns were dismissed and undermined. The WAAS, led by Preston Washington ’70, planned what would be a significant act of protest that would resonate within the college for years, the Hopkins Hall Occupation of 1969. The occupation came to an end with a meeting between Williams administrators, provost and professor Stephen R. Lewis ’60, and around three fourths of the student body. The college administration agreed to 12 out of the 15 demands previously set forth by the WAAS - which included the hiring of more people of color, the inclusion of new classes focused on Black History, and the active development of the Afro-American Society. It is not clear when the WAAS merged with, or transitioned into, the Black Student Union. There are records that indicate that the BSU was established around 1972 but it is possible that both of these organizations existed simultaneously and eventually merged, or perhaps the names were both used simultaneously before settling on the Black Student Union. According to the BSU’s website in 2016, its current mission is as follows: “In recognition that group solidarity and consciousness are important for the improvement of all peoples of African ancestry, that there is a need to create a foundation on which we can establish and sustain traditions unique to us, and that Williams College and other institutions have historically been inadequate in addressing our cultural, political, and social needs, we find the need for the establishment of the Williams Black Student Union (BSU). Our mission is to ensure that Williams students of color, especially students of African descent, have all the resources they need to thrive Williams academically, socially and emotionally, during their time here at Williams and thereafter.” For more information see: http://davis-center.williams.edu/files/2015/10/Black-Williams-A-Written-History-complete-edited-document.pdf

Extent

5.5 Linear Feet (5 record storage boxes, 1 legal manuscript box )

Overview

This collection documents two prominent student organizations at Williams College: The Afro-American Society and the Black Student Union (active since 1972). The materials date from 1959 to 2012. Much of the collection consists of correspondence, essays, poetry, newsletters, press releases, news articles, meeting minutes, publications, event flyers and promotional material, career pamphlets, invoices, brochures, notes and agendas all relating to these two student organizations, college administrators and the campus community, as well as African American student organizations at other colleges within the New England area and beyond. Materials of note reflect on-campus efforts to encourage civil rights advocacy, outreach and awareness, and the cultivation of a strong and united African American community at Williams College.

Arrangement

The collection is organized into three series: The Afro-American Society, Black Student Union, and Black Student Union 2017-016.

Physical Location

L2 Storage F5b

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Transferred from the Black Student Union, 2012.

Accruals

Accruals may occur as materials from the Black Student Union student organization are transferred to the College Archives.

Separated Materials

This collection contained two scrapbooks: “Black Student Union Scrapbook, 2005” and “Black Student Union The Year in Review, 1986 - 1987” which have been relocated to the MC16 Scrapbook Collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Nicholas Novine (SIMMONS intern), 2016. Boxes 1 and 2 part of accession number 2017-016 are not processed.
Title
Black Student Union and Afro-American Society Records
Author
Nash, Katie
Date
2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the Williams College Archives Repository

Contact:
Sawyer Library
26 Hopkins Hall Drive
Williamstown, MA 01267