Yesterday and today at Amherst and at institutions of higher education throughout the United States, students have gathered to demand a more “just and inclusive environment” on college campuses. The Frost Library is honored to be a site of this student movement on campus.
Amherst students have a long history of speaking out on issues of race and of public demonstration on campus. Evidence of past student activism on campus can be found in the Archives and Special Collections.
The Race and Rebellion at Amherst College exhibition is currently on exhibit in the Archives and Special Collections and in the Lobby of Frost Library. This exhibit “explores the history of student activism and black lives on campus from the 1820s to the present day. From the founding of the Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 to the Moratorium on Black Dissatisfaction in May 1969 to the Hands Up, Don’t Shoot! walkout in December 2014.”
1833 Anti-Slavery Society: Records of the Anti-Slavery Society, founded on July 19, 1833, show an early history of activism around race at Amherst and evidence of the first strong challenge to the administration by students of the college.
April 1969 Moratorium: In the spring of 1969, student grievances over College governance, coeducation, the Vietnam War, and race relations on campus led to a two day suspension of classes. Faculty stated their intent for the moratorium: “The moratorium can be a constructive period of self-appraisal and provide the framework within which students, faculty, administration and staff can for the first time devote full energies in this way to the questions of education and Amherst College; however, this period will be fruitful only with full participation by all members of the college community.”
May 1969 Moratorium: On May 14, 1969, at the instigation of the College’s Afro-American Society, Amherst held a Black Moratorium, in which seminars were held to address issues of race relations and black dissatisfaction. (This event contributed to the College’s decision to found the Black Studies Department in 1970.)
May 5, 1970 National Student Strike: On May 5, 1970, students and faculty of Amherst College joined more than 1,250 other colleges and universities in a nationwide student strike. The May 7, 1970 Amherst Student strike resulted in a call by students and faculty to insure justice and full constitutional freedoms for Americans of all races.
May 1992 Converse Hall Sit-In: In response to the non-guilty verdict for police officers charged in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, Amherst students took over Converse Hall and issued eight demands, including demands for the hiring of more faculty and administrators of color, as well as an affirmative action officer.
Here in the Archives, both on exhibit and in our collections, we have documented evidence of past student activism and protests on campus. This material is freely accessible to all students and the public.