major routes of the wampum and fur trade in the northeast

The Steering Committee on a Racial History of Amherst College was established in late 2020 with the following charge:

Charge for the Steering Committee on a Racial History of Amherst College

In the Amherst Anti-Racism Plan, released on 3 August 2020, President Martin noted the need for a historical study of the College’s ties to slaveholding and to capital accumulation based on slavery. In addition, she called for a racial history of the college extending into present times. To coordinate and disseminate research on the college’s racial past, President Martin has formed a Steering Committee on the Racial History of Amherst College.

The primary functions of the Steering Committee will be:

  • To identify and support specific research projects into college and local history with particular focus on any links between the college and the slave trade;
  • To serve as a hub for cross-divisional coordination for research efforts underway across campus;
  • To identify and coordinate appropriate venues for the dissemination of research findings on the college’s racial past;
  • To facilitate connections among faculty, students, staff, and alumni, and other interested stakeholders within and beyond the college around Amherst’s racial history;
  • To provide information and support for faculty interested in integrating college and local history into their courses; and
  • To initiate public programming and support and coordinate programs initiated by others to foster opportunities for dialogue on the college’s racial history.

The Steering Committee will be co-chaired by Catherine Epstein, Provost and Dean of the Faculty, and Mike Kelly, Head of the Archives and Special Collections. The committee will include two faculty members, two students, and one representative from each of the following administrative offices: Advancement; the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and the Office of Student Affairs. The committee will also include an external expert. It will be staffed by the Director of Academic Projects. The committee will meet at least twice each semester to carry out its charge.

Steering Committee Membership, Spring 2021

  • Co-Chairs: Catherine Epstein, Provost and Dean of the Faculty; Mike Kelly, Head of Archives & Special Collections
  • Sika Essegbey ’23
  • Norm Jones, Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer
  • Professor Hilary Moss
  • Ellis Phillips-Gallucci ’23
  • Professor Leah Schmalzbauer
  • Betsy Cannon Smith ’84, Chief Advancement Officer
  • Angie Tissi-Gassoway, Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion
  •  Nancy Ratner, Director of Academic Projects, supports the work of the steering committee.

Student Research Assistants, Spring 2021

In February 2021, Mike Kelly interviewed and hired the first cohort of Racial History Research Assistants:

  • Claire Dunbar ’21
  • Edmund Kennedy ’23
  • Cy Nguyen ’21

Anna Smith ’22, a student assistant in the Archives, is also contributing to this project. All of the work of the Steering Committee is made possible by support from the Archives & Special Collections team, the Digital Programs department, and the entire community in Frost Library.

Follow the Racial History of Amherst College blog for regular updates.