In the establishment of the Africana Studies program, the Committee for Afro-American Studies (CAAS) requested only one full-time appointment in the program, the director, perhaps as a means of expediting its approval—the College would only have to fund one new faculty line. In practice, that meant the faculty director not only taught but managed the program, developed curriculum, and advised majors as well as the African American Society. This arrangement persisted for forty years, making the contribution of students’ time, effort, and advocacy to the program invaluable.
Crucial to the historical records of black students at Bowdoin are the research contributions of students over the years. J. Arnett Mitchell, Class of 1912, was the fourth black student to graduate from Bowdoin and in 1939, wrote “Bowdoin and her Negro Graduates” for the Bowdoin Alumnus. He documents the lives of the college’s first nine black alumni, memorializing the underrecognized figures who came after Russwurm and before Project 65. Decades later, Ken Chenault ’73 produced a history honors thesis,“The Blackman at Bowdoin College” in which he compiled personal accounts from black alumni on their experiences at the College. Wanda Evelyn Flemming ’82 (pictured) conducted her own research on black matriculation and graduation rates since 1826, finding that the class of 1973 had the highest percentage of black students ever at Bowdoin—30—but only eight graduates. Flemming noted “a significant number of Black students failed to graduate, and many of these left Bowdoin frustrated and embittered by their experience here.” Most recently, Pamala Zabala ’17 produced an honors thesis documenting incidents of racial bias in Bowdoin’s history, finding that such incidents occur on campus every 3 1/2 years.