Intercollegiate Updates: How Other NESCACs Are Celebrating Black History Month

3 min read

Rajsi Rana ’26 & Faith Monahan ’24

News Editors

Throughout the month of February, both this year and in past years, each NESCAC member institution holds several important events that highlight Black history. Through events that center around art, create space for important discussions through panels, spotlight student voices and experiences through student-led events and more, each event helps to bring awareness to Black history and Black present experience.

Bowdoin College historically holds a Black History Month art festival that features slam poetry, art and posters displaying Bowdoin’s BHM events dating back to the 1970s. Though they have stopped holding this art festival, there has been a recent effort to refocus on the arts. In recent years, many of their BHM events have been screenings of films and photography exhibitions.

At Colby College, a student premiered “Black on the Hill,” a documentary about the Black student’s experience at Colby College, inspired by his experience at the school with “that white student who will not engage.” This stemmed from his experiences of intellectual discussions ending as class ended, with only POC having continuous conversations about race and inequality behind closed doors. In addition to this film, which premiered in 2012, Colby College has several art-centering events during BHM, including hosting artists at the Colby Museum of Art.

Bates College uses a theatre as its vehicle for BHM programming. In a series of five plays, each touch on white oppression and Black resistance and features the work of Black writers, actors and other artists. Middlebury College has chosen the theme “African Americans and the Arts” for their 2024 BHM events, which will include a film festival and other events including spoken poetry and a karaoke night. Tufts University will be featuring Black authors and creators in a pop-up exhibit. They will feature work by Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, Paul Laurence Dunbar and many more.

Another way NESCACs have created spaces for important conversations during BHM is through panel events. Amherst College hosted a “Reflections on a Legacy: Amherst Uprising Alumni Panel” last year, an hour-long panel with recent Amherst College alumnus that covered a range of topics, from important historical events that created U.S. colleges, their development towards places that strive for inclusivity, and students own personal experiences as Black individuals on campus.

Students at NESCAC schools have begun new traditions both for their individual communities and collaboratively across institutions. Wesleyan University held its inaugural Ebony Ball for Black students to enjoy and celebrate the month organized by the University’s Black History Month Committee. Student organizations also held events for their college communities such as “Black Hair Care but Inclusive” led by Wesleyan’s Caribbean Student Association in collaboration with its Muslim Student Association focused on caring for natural hair. Bowdoin College, Bates College and Colby College held an inaugural Black Student Summit to center on Black solidarity across their communities and in the world.

Some of the first Black History Month celebrations, events and organizing originated at Kent State University by Black faculty and students in the ‘70s before it was ever federally recognized, although the idea for a month focusing on Black history was not Kent State’s alone. It had been supported in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and Minister Jesse E. Moorland who had been heavily involved in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). From there, communities at other colleges began to organize for the month to celebrate the lives and contributions of Black Americans.

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