Last week I focused on the Octagon before it became the Black Cultural Center. I was able to find tons of images of the Octagon when it was Woods Cabinet. There are images of all Edward Hitchcock’s geological findings and tons of images of the Babbott room. So this week I looked for information and images of the Octagon closer to the 1960s. Interestingly enough, once we hit the 1960s (when the Octagon became the Black Cultural Center) there are no images available of the interior of the Octagon in the Archives. I believe there are some images inside of the Octagon storage closet so this week I plan to look through that. I was able to find an article written about the Afro-American Society on September 30, 1968 in the Amherst Student. The article is entitled “Afro-Am Making Plans for Cultural Center”. The article details the early planning process. The approval by the Space Committee was given in the spring of 1968. Jesse War and two of his classmates began the planning process shortly there after. The original vision for the space was the main room being a social and exhibit room for African artifacts. There was also an idea for a mural depicting themes of Black life in America. Dana Chandler was hired to draw up the basic plan of the Black Cultural Center, so I going to try and find her contact information.
The Afro- American Society presented a list of demands to the Instruction Committee of the Board of Trustees at 10:30 am on Saturday, February 22, 1969. I was able to find the original list of demands in the Amherst Student. The demands include renovation of the advisory system, hiring of a black dean, curricular changes, establishment of a black studies program, summer immersion programs, etc. But more directed at my topic, the students demanded several things in regard to a Black Cultural Center. Here is an excerpt:
“III. Black Cultural Center
- Authorization to name rooms in the Center after prominent black people.
- Establishment of a budget of at least $15,000 for the yearly maintenance of the Center.
- Books for the library
- Records for record collection
- All funds needed by the Afro-American Society for the completion of its plans now in the Dean’s office be allocated by Spring Vacation.
- Complete control of the Black Cultural Center”
These demands were not acted on immediately since I found another article written in November 1969 where the students continued to ask for funding for the Black Cultural Center in addition to complete control of the center.
In addition this week I continued to identify the missing faces on the mural located in the Gerald Penny Center of the Octagon. I was able to make significant progress in this identification by scrolling through past Olio’s. Unfortunately I am still missing one face. He was originally labeled as William Davis Jr, ’63, who was a trustee of the college. But after doing some research I realized that the photographs didn’t match up. I believe the image was commissioned by Dean Boykin East in 2007 and completed by a local artist, so I should be able to get the information about the last image soon. Currently in the archives, there is limited information about the Octagon murals, so the labeled image on the next page will eventually be a great addition to the archives. Next week I will also look in the documents of the Octagon closet to find articles and information written about the other mural in the Octagon.