Many thanks to Jeff Delaney ’05 for providing a copy (doc) of “Black Williams: A Written History” by the members of the Black Student Union.

“In order to know where you are going, you must know where you came from.”

It was that very belief that raised questions in the minds of Williams Black Student Union board members in the spring of 2002. The BSU board in 2002–2003 was composed mainly of freshmen who hadn’t yet been acquainted with the oral history of the BSU. This realization led the board to seek out information about the history of the BSU that could be passed on to incoming freshmen and also be made available to all its members. The fact that the history is so rich—and turbulent—further necessitated the writing of this history.

However, the search for information in the likeliest places proved futile: there was no summary record of the BSU available. Therefore, that spring the BSU decided to create a complete history of the Union that would include all of the events that led to its creation, the events that led to the acquisition of Rice House, and, as nearly as possible, all that has happened on campus since the creation of the Union that affected its membership.

This idea was submitted to Prof. Tess Chakalakal for her evaluation and advice in the summer of 2002. She suggested that we elaborate on an already solid foundation. Not only was there a need for a record of the rich history of the BSU, she said, but also of the blacks who attended Williams: a written, accessible history of Williams’ illustrious black graduates would not only inform current students but would attract prospective students—especially black students—to Williams.

In order to tackle this project, the BSU board proposed a Winter Study 099 titled “Black Williams: A Written History.” With the exception of its two freshman members, the entire BSU board participated in the project. Six general members of the Union also participated in the work.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in Williams history. The quality of the chapters varies, as in any group project, but the best ones are very good indeed. We need to know these stories.

Would readers be interested in a week’s worth of posts on this topic? My plan would be to quote large selections. But I realize that not everyone cares as much about Williams history as I do . . .

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