Black Presence Timeline

The UMass Black Presence website serves as a living history of the experiences, contributions, and stories of Black students, alumni, faculty and staff. Through the oral history interviews, 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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  • 1897

    George “Ruff” Bridgeforth is admitted as the first Black student at UMass.

    Born in Athens, Alabama, on October 5, 1873, Bridgeforth was 23 when he entered as a freshman and, in some ways, set a pattern for the pioneering cohort of African American students at UMassthen known as Massachusetts Agricultural College. 

  • 1905

    Photo of groundbreaking college football captain William Hunlie Craighead in action. Amherst, MA, 1902
    William Hunlie Craighead becomes the first African American undergraduate football captain.

    Craighead was likely either the first or second African American to captain a sports team at a predominantly white college un the U.S.

  • 1935

    frank spaulding
    Major Franklin Spaulding is the first African American to receive a PhD at UMass Amherst

    The first African American to receive a doctorate at UMass Amherst and the first nationally to receive a doctorate in agronomy, Major Franklin Spaulding earned a PhD in 1935 for his study "Factors influencing the rate of decomposition of Different Types of Plant Tissues in Soils and the Effects of Products on Plant Growth".

  • 1948

    Dr. Ed Driver
    Ed Driver is hired as a professor of sociology and first Black faculty member.

    Just 23 years old in the fall of 1948, Edwin Douglas Driver was hired by UMass Amherst's Department of Sociology, becoming the first person of non-European descent to join the faculty and, along with Ruby Pernell of the University of Minnesota, one of the first two African Americans hired onto the faculty of a state flagship university in the 20th century.

  • 1966

    The Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students (CCEBS) is initiated by a group of concerned Black faculty and staff at UMass.

    During that time, the program was committed to recruiting and assisting Black, Spanish-speaking, Asian-American, and low-income students.

  • 1966

    Carver Club, an informal Black student organization, established at UMass Amherst (primarily undergraduates, a few graduate members)
  • 1967

    A committee of Black students met with Dean Tunis and presented a proposal to increase the number of Black students on the UMass Amherst campus
  • 1967

    Afro-American Student Association established as a recognized student organization at UMass Amherst

    Leadership included Cheryl Evans, President; Cheryl Eastmond, Vice-President; Paula Diggs, Treasurer; Carol Seales, Secretary.

  • 1968

    The Black Mass Communications Project is founded.

    The Black Mass Communications Project was founded as an educational and informational outlet for Black students at UMass Amherst in 1968, and authorized in the following year as a Registered Student Organization. Pictured: BMCP members at the Du Bois Homesite's 20th anniversary celebration

  • November, 1968

    Students marched on the Whitmore Administration building and presented twenty-two demands for change, including Black Studies, Nov.