A Storytelling Project

We, as Amherst College alumnae and students, are telling our stories to bridge historical and present-day experiences, and to illuminate the accomplishments and wisdom of the Black women of Amherst College. We invite you to listen to recorded stories and tell us your own story. Then join us this fall for our podcast series plus a series of live conversations in a virtual Drew House that we will build together. Here, all the Black Women of Amherst College can talk, share, learn and laugh. This project celebrates alumnae, current students, faculty, staff, potential students and future generations.

When Black women rise, we all rise.

Amherst’s motto is Terras Irradient — “Let Them Enlighten the Lands.” In that same spirit, we add Terras Levamus — “We lift up the Earth.” In this project, we will uncover untold stories and expand the definition of what it means to be a Black woman of Amherst College. Hear us, and join us.

book, Black Women of Amherst, by Mavis Campbell

The Stories

Inspired by the book Black Women of Amherst College by the late Mavis C. Campbell, professor emerita of history, this is a living digital archive that will tell a multidimensional story of the Black women of Amherst College — including alumnae, students, faculty and staff — from the first days of the Amherst community through today. The stories and experiences shared here will be preserved in the Amherst College Archives, and some may be featured in our podcast and digital series. To participate, please contact us.

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Share Your Story

  • Calling all Black women of Amherst College: Tell us your stories of joy, pain, triumph, trouble and growth.
  • Calling all allies: Tell us how a Black woman of Amherst changed your life.

Featured Podcast

“I Learned to Wear a Mask: My Journey to Amherst,” by Nichelle Carr ’98

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United by Our ‘Masks’

Anna Julia Cooper

Anna Julia Cooper

One of the first Black women to influence and contribute to Amherst College, Anna Julia Cooper served as principal of the Washington, D.C., high school named for the Black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar.

We Wear the Mask

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!

“I learned that day, at age 17, that I would need to wear that mask.”
—Nichelle Carr ’98

Our Goals

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Create

a new space for Black women to engage with Amherst College and each other

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Illuminate

the influence and contributions of Black women to Amherst College and beyond

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Empower

Black women as current and future leaders within the Amherst College community

Why Now?

As Amherst College commemorates its Bicentennial, it is time to explore and recognize the full Amherst story. It is time to discover the unknown, unseen and unsung of Amherst College. The Amherst story is our story.

Black women embody the greatest issues of our time:

  • We live at the intersection of the Movement for Black Lives and the #MeToo movement.
  • We are caregivers, first responders and essential workers in the COVID era.
  • We are super-voters who vote and organize.
  • The first woman elected vice president of the United States is a Black woman.

Meet Our Storytellers

Meet the five women who appear in the “Black Women of Amherst” video. They and others will tell their stories in podcasts.