The Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students Established

Via INDEX, 1980 Edition

The Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students (CCEBS) was initiated in 1966 by a group of concerned Black faculty and staff at the University. Since that time, the pro- gram has been committed to recruiting and assisting Black, Spanish-speaking, Asian- American, and low-income students. CCEBS has concentrated on developing programs that will enable students in the program to be successful in their educational pursuits and make the necessary transitions in University life. 

CCEBS services are divided into three components: Academic Services, Personal Counseling, and Graduate and Career Development. The components aim to provide CCEBS students with special skills courses, tutorial services, academic advising, career and personal counseling, and economic assistance. 

The CCEBS program is very interested in recruiting minority and low- income students who feel college will better prepare them for later life. 

Via The Daily Collegian, "Looking back on the history of Black presence at UMass", Irina Costache, Assistant News Editor, February 28, 2021

According to the Fall 2010 edition of the UMass Magazine, in the 1960s, UMass had fewer Black students on campus than the universities in Mississippi or Alabama and had more students from Asia and Africa than Black students from Massachusetts.

The students who attended the University between 1960 and 1970 were dubbed the “Black Pioneers” by Cheryl Evans ’68. Evans undertook a project in 2018 to collect and document the stories of these students.

In her own interview, Evans recalled first arriving at UMass in 1964 for freshman orientation and not seeing any other Black student.

“It was like being transported to another planet,” she said in the interview.

Her entire freshman class only had 12 Black students, six men and six women, and she recalls feeling invisible to the rest of the University.

“I remember going to one of those freshman mixes, I think they called them, and standing there and people going by and dancing and I just felt, like, ‘this big.’ I realized the experience they’re having…I wasn’t included,” she said.

Evans also talked about not having places in town to get her hair done or be able to buy pantyhose or makeup for her skin color. She would have to take the bus back to her home in Medford to get her hair done properly.

After realizing this lack of Black representation on campus, Evans decided to organize some of the other Black students around 1965.

“I could have passed through here with no ripples at all, or, [said] ‘something has to change, I can’t leave this like this.’ And so that became I’ll call it, the ‘additional degree,’” she said.

During her time organizing at UMass, Evans gained the nickname “Little General” for her small statue but commanding nature.

A full video self-recorded by Evans reflecting on her time at UMass can be found here.

The Black organization first started as the ‘Carver Club,’ “because Carver was neutral enough to not scare anybody,” Evans said.

Later on, Evans was elected to the Student Government Association as a representative from Arnold House. After learning about the process of becoming a Registered Student Organization, she helped establish the Carver Club as the new “Student Afro-American Association,” the first Black student organization on campus and was elected its first president.

Evans remembers that around the years of 1966 and 1967, she and some members of the Association met with the Dean of Students at the time with a proposal to recruit more Black students.

“We didn’t ask for any money. We said we would do the recruiting,” she said.

The Dean replied saying that the administration would think about it.

Around the same time, five Black faculty membersRandolph W. “Bill” Bromery, Lawrence A. Johnston, William Julius Wilson, Edwin Driver and William Daritybegan on an initiative to increase Black enrollment and support at UMass.

Reflecting on the period before the 1968 push for recruitment, the Status Report cites that “Almost any discussion of recruitment of Afro-American students, whether at meetings or parties, eventually led to the question of their qualifications for college work.” It continues, “We noted, also, that ‘lack of qualifications’ all too often implied the inability to learn rather than poor high school preparation for college. We recognize the latter as justification for concern but in no way as a reason for the University to avoid what was clearly its moral, if not necessarily legal, duty.”

For faculty members, it became clear that it was necessary to create a system to support prospective Black students’ needs.

“Those of us who had received our secondary schooling in the North knew how Black students were kept out of academic tracks, the courses they were discouraged from taking, the career counselors who attempted to lower Black pupils’ ambitions, even the teacher who literally wept before her class, apologizing for the Black youngster’s sitting before her and explaining that ‘Negroes simply can’t grasp the material, but state law requires me to teach them,’” wrote the faculty in the Status Report.

To address these needs, University faculty wrote a grant proposal for the creation of the Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students. CCEBS was meant to recruit and retain Black students and provide them with economic and academic assistance such as orientation, counseling and tutoring.

According to an article from the Journal of African American Studies, the Ford Foundation accepted the grant to underwrite the education of Black students at UMass and provided the program $1 million in the two year period between 1968 and 1969. Other funding came from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the U.S. Office of Education, the UMass Student Senate and UMass alumni.

After the creation of CCEBS, the Committee worked to increase the enrollment of Black students on campus, according to the UMass Magazine. In 1968, they presented the University with a list of 120 potential students to admit, of whom they hoped half would be accepted.

Initially, the University only wanted to accept two or three of the 120. Yet, the five professors on the Committee did not back down. They threatened to resign if the University did not meet their demands.

After this, the University agreed to accept all 121 students51 men and 70 women.

“The graduates from that first-year cohort would outnumber the full roster of Black graduates in the previous 105 years of the university’s history,” says the Magazine.

According to the Journal of African American Studies, with the help CCEBS, the enrollment of Black students then rose to around 500 by 1970.

One of the students from the 1968 CCEBS class was Anita Anderson, who was also interviewed as part of the Black Pioneers project.

Of her time at UMass, Anderson said that what most stands out to her was “the community that we built.” She said that she had study partners and it felt as though students were helping one another.

Anderson said that when she arrived on campus as a music major, she learned that she “wasn’t equipped for the difficulty of classical music.”

“I just was not disciplined at 17,” she said.

Before departing UMass in her sophomore year to pursue a singing career in Los Angeles, Anderson was a vocalist in a band on campus.

Of the environment between students on campus, she said “There was a lot of people judging each other by the color of their skin but I wasn’t into that…I’m not saying I never experienced prejudice because I did experience it, but that was a select few peoplekids that were raised that way. I always believed you could teach hate, but if you don’t teach it you won’t have it.”