• 1826: Edward Jones, the first black Amherst graduate of Amherst College received his Bachelor’s degree.

Edward Jones ‘1826 (Source: http://www1.amherst.edu/about_amh06/history/index.html)

  • 1847-1848: The Octagon (known as Woods Cabinet) was built. It was designed by Henry A. Sykes who was an architect and contractor. Former Amherst College President Edward Hitchcock was largely responsible for the construction of the Octagon. Hitchcock describes the Octagon (Woods Cabinet):  “It was not until the erection of the Woods Cabinet [the Octagon] in 1848, that an exhibition of good taste in the buildings where young men are educated, was thought promotive of the main object instead of needless waste.” The list of donors can be found on a plaque in the Octagon and a total of $8,437 dollars was raised to build the Octagon. The Octagon housed the College’s scientific collection and the Lawrence Observatory. The original building included only the octagonal tower and the two-story cabinet. The one-story octagonal room (the room with the television) and the wooden wing at the east (restroom space) were later additions. For this information I referenced The Story of the Campus and Buildings of Amherst College by Stanley King.
  • 1915: Charles Hamilton Houston graduated from Amherst College. (see: The Dunbar Men of Amherst)
  • 1920-1929: 16 Blacks graduated from Amherst College
  • 1926: Charles Drew graduated from Amherst College. (see: The Dunbar Men of Amherst)
  • 1930s: 5 Blacks graduated from Amherst College
  • 1939-1947: No Blacks graduated from Amherst College
  • 1959: Three Black men, who all attended Dunbar High School, graduated from Amherst College. (Lawrence Burwell, Raymond Hayes, Robert Jason) (see: The Dunbar Men of Amherst) (Check out Matt’s second research reflection to learn more about the trio of 1959!)
  • 1968: Afro-American Society is established.
  • 1968: The Black Cultural Center receives approval by the Space Committee in the spring of 1968.
  • 1969: 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.

    Here is an excerpt: “III. Black Cultural Center A. Authorization to name rooms in the Center after prominent black people. B. Establishment of a budget of at least $15,000 for the yearly maintenance of the Center. 1. Books for the library 2. Records for record collection 3. Speakers 4. Artifacts C. 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. D. Complete control of the Black Cultural Center”

  • Early 1970s: The development of the Black Studies Department. (For a detailed history of the department’s beginnings, click here!)
  • September 1973: The death of Gerald Penny ‘77. Penny passed away after drowning during Amherst College’s swim test requirement.
  • October 14, 1974: The Black Cultural Center is dedicated to the life of Gerald Penny ‘77.
  • 1975: Amherst became coeduational.
  • Spring 2000: Kevin Soltau ‘01 painted the Octagon mural in the second semester of his junior year.
  • 2012-2013: Formation of the African-Caribbean Student Union by Darienne Malala ’16 and Stella Oyalabu ’16.
    • November 1st, 2012- ACSU is officially registered as a student organization at Amherst College.
    • February 13, 2013- ACSU hosted its first meeting in the common room of Sterns Residence Hall.
  • February 16, 2016: Octagon Mural updated by original artist, Kevin Soltau, to honor Amherst community members. Professor Rhonda Cobham Sanders, Dean Charri Boykin East and Timothy Lee Jones ‘05 were added to the mural.


    Charles Drew ’26 (Source: http://blackinventor.com/)