Buildings and Belonging: Mapping the African American Experience at Vassar College since 1861, debuted on campus in April during AAAVC’s “Triennial XII—Celebrating the Contributions of African American Alumnae/i, Students, Faculty, Administrators, and Staff of Vassar College.”
Spearheaded by Vassar students, faculty and the African American Alumnae/i of Vassar College (AAAVC), Buildings and Belonging is designed to foster a sense of place and belonging for African Americans on campus and was inspired by the placement of a permanent marker in front of Kendrick House, at the behest of AAAVC members, commemorating its status as both cultural center and housing for African American students from 1969-1975.
Exterior markers will be placed on 10 buildings and sites where African Americans have contributed to the physical, cultural, academic, and sociological history and development of the college. Print and digital maps of noted campus locations will be available to allow interested parties to take self-guided or docent-led tours of these sites and QR codes will lead viewers to additional, archival material on the Buildings and Belonging website. The temporary markers will be posted at the designated sites throughout campus through October 2018.
“The coolest thing about the project is that it was generational, conceived by alumni and faculty to document the influence and contributions of African Americans at Vassar, but executed by students,” said Ifeacho Awachie, ’20, who was among the many student researchers who contributed to the project. “It reinforced my idea that black students and other minorities have a place at Vassar.”
“The project asks what does a sense of place mean?” said Karen Clopton ‘80, P‘19, ’22 and co-chair of AAAVC. “What have been the contributions of African Americans to Vassar? It is important to recognize that we do belong, the college is ours and it has always been ours—from laborers to groundskeepers to students to faculty and administrators, and alums.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in Special Collections in the Thompson Library with students as we attempted to map the footprints of Black students in Vassar's past,” said Quincy Mills, Associate Professor of History and Director of Africana Studies. “Most importantly, the experience reveals what is, in fact, not in the archive; the silences of the past so to speak. A fuller picture of Black life in Vassar's history remains to be told and archived.”
A website and brochure will help to broaden the knowledge about African Americans on campus. Organizers plan to incorporate Buildings and Belonging into the ongoing life of the campus through select permanent campus markers, first-year student orientation events, admissions tours, and ongoing research.
A special exhibition in the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center's Focus Gallery, Reflections: Portrayals of and by African Americans, will run concurrently with the Buildings and Belonging project. The exhibition will display select works by African American artists from Vassar’s permanent collection. The exhibition will be on display from April 10-August 19, 2018.
Exterior markers will be placed on:
- ALANA Center
- Swift Hall
- Raymond House
- Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
- Alumni House
- The Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library
- Blodgett Hal
- Kendrick House
- Main Building
- New England Building
Buildings and Belonging is a collaborative effort by the AAAVC; student and faculty researchers; administrators in the Office of Campus Life and Diversity, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, the Thompson Memorial Library, the Office of Communications, the Facilities Operations Department; and the Office of the President.
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Vassar College is a coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.