Who We Are

Matt Randolph ’16 

MattMatthew Randolph is a senior History and Spanish double major from Maryland. Through his research project for this special topics course, he sought to uncover the relationship between the historically black Dunbar High School in Washington D.C. and Amherst College. He asks, “Why did so many students from Dunbar High School in D.C. attend Amherst in the first half of the twentieth century?” As a result of his findings, Matt theorizes that an “intergenerational cycle of motivation and matriculation” developed in which each generation of Dunbar-Amherst alumni would encourage Dunbar high school students to consider Amherst. Indeed, the Dunbar students who went to Amherst and returned to their high school as principals or teachers had an influence on their students’ educational aspirations. Matt’s work this semester included weekly research in the College’s archives as well as interviews with those men still living who went to both Dunbar and Amherst. As the grandson of a Dunbar alumnus, Matt has found the special topics course to be both personally and academically rewarding. 

Research Project – “The Dunbar-Amherst Connection, 1892-1961” 

Amira Lundy-Harris ’16 



Amira Lundy-Harris is a senior Black Studies and Sexuality, Women’s & Gender Studies double major from Oakland, California. Their time at Amherst has been defined by the chosen family they’ve made through Queer and Afro-diasporic affinity groups. Their very particular experience of Blackness at Amherst sparked their curiosity and fueled their interest in exploring the multitude of black queer experiences at the College over the decades. This semester, Amira turned to the archives to illuminate these often-silenced narratives.

Research Project – “The Black Queer Experience at Amherst”



Ajanae Bennett ’16



Ajanae Bennett is a senior Mathematics major from Brooklyn, New York. As a member of the Black Student Union, the Octagon is the place where Ajanae gained a second family. This personal connection to the Gerald Penny Center and the Octagon inspired her research and pushed her to dive deeper into the rich history of the Octagon. Once one of the most prestigious buildings on campus, the Octagon has now become an after thought to the general Amherst community, but remains the hub and meeting ground for black students on campus. Hundreds of black men and women have stepped on the Octagon’s wooden floors and sat through the rumblings of the Octagon’s heaters. The space continues to be a unifying factor for black students, thus her research is vital to the exploration of the black experience at Amherst College.

Research Project – “Amherst Hidden Treasures: The Rich History of the Octagon”

Darienne Madlala ’16

DacDarienne is a senior history major born and raised in Durban, South Africa. During her four years at Amherst, she has been primarily occupied with the creation and the preservation of the African and Caribbean Students’ Union along with her co-founder, Stella. Navigating her race in America and especially at Amherst has prompted her to focus specifically on students who identify as African and how their identity may or may not fit with what is commonly thought of as ‘the black experience’.

Research Project – “A Black Experience?”


Frank Couvares (E. Dwight Salmon Professor of History and American Studies)


Khary Polk (Assistant Professor of Black Studies and Sexuality, Women’s and Gender Studies)

eisenberg mike kelly

Mike Kelly (Head of Archives and Special Collections, Frost Library)