• Fine Arts Center Named for Transformative Leader

    Randolph W. “Bill” Bromery served as chancellor of the university from 1971–79. His rich legacy as a transformative Black leader, scientist, and lifelong saxophonist is now memorialized by the Fine Arts Center building that will be named in his honor
  • James Baldwin and friends at a book party

    Highlight: James Baldwin

    James Baldwin had a little-known close connection to UMass campus, our faculty, and students. Read about his history and time here.
  • New Africa House

    A Timeline of Black Presence at UMass

    Learn about historical events like the establishment of the New Africa House.

Black Presence

The UMass Black Presence website serves as a living history of the experiences, contributions, and stories of Black students, alumni, faculty, and staff. Through oral history interviews and research on historical figures, we've captured these stories to provide an authentic and in-depth understanding of these lived experiences.

This is a growing website with additional interviews, news, profiles, and moments in history being populated on an ongoing basis. We encourage you to share any content you have that should be highlighted on this webpage.

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About The Black Presence Project

Dr Bracey and Sonia Sanchez at a book signing

The Black Presence Planning Committee

The Black Presence Project was a cross-campus collaborative effort led by Dr. John Bracey of the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies. The oral histories were recorded by UMass graduate student Erika Slocumb and students in AfroAm 397N-597P over the course of 20202021, with interviews being recorded on an ongoing basis. Interviews feature prominent alumni, faculty, and athletes as well as current students sharing their life experiences.

Dr. Bracey and Dr. Battle-Baptiste on the History of the Black Presence Project

Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, Nefertiti Walker, interviews Whitney Battle-Baptiste and John Bracey to discuss the Black Presence Initiative. They talk about the history of the project, the various components of the website and project at large, and the incredible interviews Dr. Bracey and his team were able to record that will be preserved on the Black Presence website and in the University Archives.

Official portrait of Chancellor Subbaswamy

A Message from Chancellor Subbaswamy on the Black Presence Project

"While the university serves society through its land-grant mission of learning, discovery and engagement, we have a reciprocal relationship with our citizenry. For in equal measure, the institution benefits from external influences: As we export innovation and creativity, our excellence is fueled by the societal changes and movements that flow across our campus, challenging us to always evolve and expand the promise of this great institution."

Marcellette Williams in regalia at the graduate school graduation

PROFILE: Dr. Marcellette Williams

Marcellette Gaillard-Gay Williams served as chancellor of the Amherst campus from July 2001 to June 2002. The first woman to serve as chancellor, Dr. Williams led the campus through a challenging period of UMass history.

Fred Tillis in from the of Bromery Center of Fine Art

PROFILE: Frederick C. Tillis

Frederick Tillis profoundly shaped the cultural and musical landscape at UMass Amherst, the Pioneer Valley and beyond. His more than 100 compositions include works for piano and voice, orchestra and chorus, along with chamber music and works in the African-American spiritual tradition. Tillis published 15 books of poetry.

Bromery at his desk

PROFILE: Dr. Randolph Bromery

Dr. Bromery was the first Black chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and the second African American to lead a predominantly and historically white campus, after Clifton R. Wharton Jr. at Michigan State University.

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