Cover of an Amherst College year book with portraits of five students superimposed on the cover

Five students who attended Amherst College between 1875 and 1883 are featured here in a collage on the cover of a leather-bound Amherst College class album from 1878. To provide additional context to their stories, College photographer Maria Stenzel created a series of collages of the students using historical photos, illustrations, maps and newspaper clippings from the period. Learn more about their lives in The Men “Black Men of Amherst” Left Out, by Katharine Whittemore.

Madison Smith, Class of 1877

Madison Smith

Formerly an enslaved person who gained his freedom in 1865, Madison Smith died the summer after his sophomore year at Amherst College, only a decade into his freedom.

Left: Photo of Madison Smith and a detail from his obituary in The Amherst Student, October 9, 1875

Smith is remembered by a classmate in The Amherst Student: “As we enter upon another college year we miss several of our associates. Death has taken one of these, and many friends are called to mourn the loss of Madison Smith. His brief life was so eventful that numerous readers of the STUDENT will, no doubt, be interested in a condensed account of it. He was born of slave parents, in North Carolina, where he lived until his seventeenth year. Then, while house-servant to a physician, the Union army extended its lines beyond the limits of his master’s estate, and he became free...In after years, when we shall look back over the battle-field of life and recall those whom the Great Captain has gathered home, there will be few whose record will be better than that of Madison Smith, brief though it was.”

Top right: Sherman's march through South Carolina, burning of McPhersonville, February 1, 1865. William Waud, artist. Published in: Harper's Weekly, March 4, 1865, p. 136. From the Morgan collection of Civil War drawings (Library of Congress)
Bottom right: Detail of map showing Sherman's march to the sea, 12 November 1864 to 13 April 1865. Adapted from the West Point Atlas of American wars, Volume I. (Courtesy of Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.)

Charles Sumner Wilson, Class of 1877

Charles Sumner Wilson

Charles Sumner Wilson, class of 1877, was born in 1853 in Salem, Mass., the third son of parents who fought—and sacrificed—for the rights of Black people. He became the first Black man to be nominated, by a congressman, for admittance to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. However, you must be 17 to enter West Point, and Wilson was a few months short. Instead, he attended Amherst from 1873 to 1875 before graduating from Tufts in 1878.

Top left: A hand-colored lithograph of West Point circa 1870 as viewed from the banks of the Hudson River. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress).
Bottom left: A photograph of Amherst’s College Row in 1854. (AC Archives and Special Collections).
Top right: A newspaper clipping from The Intelligencer, Anderson S.C., March 17, 1870.

Transcript of text from The Intelligencer, Anderson, S.C., March 17, 1870: “Gen. Butler has appointed Charles Sumner Wilson, a colored youth, hailing from Massachusetts, as a cadet at West Point. What a happy commingling of names—Butler, Sumner and Wilson—in this appointment of the first colored youth to the national military academy.”

Charles Henry Moore, Class of 1878

Charles Henry Moore

Charles Henry Moore was born in Wilmington, N.C., in 1855; his mother was Black and his father was white. After graduating from Amherst, he became a major reformer for Black education in the South. Moore was instrumental in founding the  Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race in Greensboro, North Carolina, now called the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. The photos in this illustration are from the Alumni Biographical Files Collection, which documents the lives of Amherst alumni from 1821 to the present. Read a blog post about Moore’s accomplishments by Sara Smith, Arts and Humanities Librarian at Frost Library.

Left: Charles Henry Moore’s photo in the Class Album of 1878.

Center: A 1906 photographic postcard of the A.M. Colored College, Greensboro N.C.

Right: Oval-shaped portrait of Charles Henry Moore (1855 - 1952).

Wiley Lane, Class of 1879

Wiley Lane

Wiley Lane was born in Elizabeth City, N.C., in 1852, the child of two free parents. After attending Howard University’s college preparatory department, Lane attended Amherst from 1877 to 1879 to study classical literature and culture. Lane returned to Howard, where he became a professor of Greek in 1883. He died of pneumonia in February 1885 at the age of 32.

At the funeral, Rev. William Patton, President of Howard University, said of Professor Lane in his obituary address: “One may also properly call attention to the success of his career. The word career, so often used with little meaning, may in this case be fitly employed, though his years numbered but thirty-two. Providence did much for him in this respect; for he lived at the time of one of the greatest social revolutions which the world has witnessed, and himself became a marked illustration of the almost miraculous changes which made it possible. I can put the salient facts into a single sentence. Though not actually born a slave, as I had supposed, he began life as a colored child in a slave State, at the very bottom of society, and he died professor of Greek in a university established by Congress in the National Capitol. Two such terminal points may well be said to include a career, and for others of his race to include a prophecy.”

Background image: Stereograph showing a crowd of Black students on the lawn of Howard University near Miner Hall between 1867and 1920 by J.W. and J.S. Moulton (Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs).

Wilbert Blanchard Lew, Class of 1883

Wilbert Lew

After graduation Wilbert Lew studied veterinary medicine in Michigan, returning to Amherst in 1887. He lived in Amherst while practicing veterinary medicine in Florence, Mass. In 1920 he was also appointed “inspector of animals” for the town of Amherst.

Right: Map of Amherst, Mass. published March 1887. This detail shows the Amherst College campus and part of Amherst town. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
Left: Lew provided a biographical sketch and an up-to-date portrait for the class of 1883’s 25th Reunion book: 

Transcript of text in image:

Wilbert Blanchard Lew was born at Gardner, Massachusetts, on the 6th day of May, 1861. He went through the public schools and prepared for college at the Gardner High School, joining the ranks of ’83 at the beginning of the course.

Upon graduating in 1883 he went west and for a time followed the precarious life of a book agent, obtaining, as he expressed it in a letter written at the time, “many honors, though few financial ones.” At Battle Creek, Michigan, he became interested in veterinary science and studied with Dr. D. Magner, a past-master in that art. Here he completed a regular course and “graduated as a full-fledged veterinary with all the necessary credentials.” In the spring of 1887 he returned east, but not seeing at once a favorable opportunity to begin the practice of his profession, he obtained a position as receiving clerk for the firm of J N. Leonard and Company, silk thread manufacturers, of Northampton, Massachusetts. In this occupation, he remained about a year and a half. On the first of November, 1889, he opened an office for the practice of veterinary medicine in Florence, Massachusetts, making his home in Amherst. He is still engaged in this work in both Amherst and Florence.

It will be remembered the Lew was married in Amherst during the summer vacation preceding his senior year. His wife was Hattie Burghardt, daughter of Ira Burghardt of Amherst, and the ceremony occurred August 19, 1882. He has no children.