Vassar College Digital Library
Guide to the Vassar College 1969 Black Studies Sit-in Records, 1966-1974

Table of Contents

Collection Summary

Repository: Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries
Creator: Vassar College. Africana Studies Program
Title: Vassar College 1969 Black Studies Sit-in Records
Dates: 1966-1974
Quantity: 0.8 cubic feet (2 boxes)
Abstract: Materials related to the early years of the Vassar College Black Studies Program and the student sit-in staged in 1969 for improvements to the program along with other demands relating to the African-American community both on campus and off.

Administrative History

Vassar College’s Black Studies Program was established in the Fall of 1969, one of a number of similar programs established at colleges and universities across the country in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement. With recommendations and urging from the Students’ Afro-American Society (SAS), a multidisciplinary program in Black Studies was approved by the Board of Trustees in February, 1969. The Urban Black Studies Center was also established and opened off-campus that year to provided educational opportunities in Black studies and Black history for Poughkeepsie residents and Vassar students. However, both initiatives were considered experimental and not assured of permanent funding.

On October 22, 1969, the SAS presented the College’s administration a list of demands related to the Black Studies Program, the Urban Center, and student services. Among their concerns were: the inability of the Black Studies Program to grant degrees; a lack of Black faculty; a lack of funding for the program; a lack of transportation between campus and the Urban Center; and a lack of contiguous housing for the exclusive use of African-American students. Dissatisfied with the administration’s response to these demands, 32-35 students occupied the first floor of the Main Building on October 30 and barricaded themselves inside, including administrative offices, the mail room, and the campus switchboard. They remained until November 1, when the College and Trustees agreed to most of the protestors demands. The occupation drew substantial national publicity. The Catlin Report, formally the report of the Joint Ad-Hoc Committee on the Education of Minority Students, recommended increasing the number of Black students, faculty, staff, administration, and trustees; a larger proportion of financial aid to Black students; a commitment to the Black Studies concentration equal to others in the Vassar curriculum; a commitment to the Urban Center as part of the academic Black studies program; separate housing as an option available to Black students (but no dormitory assigned exclusively to Black students for legal reasons), and a cultural center for Black students. The Board of Trustees approved the report in December, 1970.

Renamed the Africana Studies Program in 1976, the program is the oldest of Vassar’s multi-disciplinary programs.


Scope and Content Note

The records document the creation of the Urban Center for Black/Africana Studies, beginning in 1968. Included are faculty, trustee, administration, and student reports and correspondence documenting the establishment and early growth of the program. Also included are student handouts, administrative correspondence and reports, and press clippings recording the extensive coverage of the 1969 occupation of Main, which played a significant role in the program’s development. Records of the Urban Center and material related to its activities within the Poughkeepsie community are included. Correspondence also records fund-raising efforts for the projects.



This collection is organized into seven series by type of material.Top


This collection is open for research according to the regulations of the Vassar College Archives and Special Collections Library without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

Permission to quote (publish) from unpublished or previously published material must be obtained as described in the regulations of the Vassar College Archives and Special Collections Library.


Subject Headings


  • Vassar College--Administration
  • Vassar College--Students


  • African American students--New York (State)
  • African Americans--Study and teaching
  • Black people--Study and teaching
  • College students, Black--New York (State)
  • Student movements
  • Student protesters

Document Types:

  • Clippings (information artifacts)
  • Correspondence
  • Fliers (printed matter)
  • Reports

VCL Categories:

  • Vassar College Events and Issues

Encoding Information

Encoded by Jessica Kemm, October 2009. Updated by Emma Gronbeck, April 2024.


Preferred Citation

Vassar College 1969 Black Studies Sit-in Records, Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries.

Processing Information

Date of original processing unknown.

Acquisition Information

Materials were transferred from several Vassar College offices.


Series List

Series I. Articles and Clippings, 1966-1974

Series II. Flyers and Handouts, 1969

Series III. News Releases, 1969-1972

Series IV. Reports, 1969-1974

Series V. Correspondence, 1968-1974

Series VI. Black Studies Program, 1969-1971

Series VII. Miscellaneous, 1969-1974

Container List


Folder 1.1 Pre Sit-In: Articles on Black Studies & Housing, 1968 May - 1969 Nov
Folder 1.2 Pre Sit-In: Miscellaneous Articles & Clippings, 1966 Nov - 1969 Nov
Folders 1.3-1.4 Sit-In: Clippings, 1969 Oct 30 - Nov 1
Folder 1.5 End of Sit-In: Clippings, 1969 Nov
Folder 1.6 Post Sit-In: Articles & Clippings, 1969 Nov - 1974 Feb
Folder 1.7 Editorial Comments, 1969 Nov-Dec


Folder 1.8 Flyers & Handouts, 1969 Oct-Nov


Folder 2.1 News Releases from Vassar, 1969-1972
Folder 2.2 Media Contacts 1969 Oct-Nov
Folder 2.3 Summary of Media Coverage / B.H. Hevenor, 1969 Nov 26


Folder 2.4 Demands, Proposals, and Actions, 1969 May - 1973 Mar, undated
Folder 2.5 Reports and Minutes, 1969
Folder 2.6 Reports and Minutes, 1970
Folder 2.7 Reports and Minutes, 1972-1974


Folder 3.1 Inter-departmental Communications, 1968 Nov - 1969 Oct
Folder 3.2 Inter-departmental Communications, 1969 Nov
Folder 3.3 Inter-departmental Communications, 1970 Jan-Sep
Folder 3.4 Inter-departmental Communications, 1972 Mar-Dec
Folder 3.5 Inter-departmental Communications, 1973
Folder 3.6 Correspondence, 1969 Apr-Nov
Folder 3.7 Correspondence, 1970 Jan - 1974 Jun


Folders 4.1-4.2 Curriculum, 1969-1971
Folder 4.3 Urban Center for Black Studies, Proposal for Tutorial, 1969 Jul-Aug
Folder 4.4 Proposals for Outside Funding, 1969 Jun-Sep
Folder 4.5 Africa-Study Field Trip Fund Raising, 1970 Oct-Nov


Folder 4.6 Black Students Enrolled at Vassar College, 1969-1972
Folder 4.7 Harvard College Admission and Scholarship Newsletter, vol. 22, no. 3, 1974 May
Folder 4.8 New York State Education Department, "Minority Access to and Participation in Post-Secondary Education," revised draft, 1972 May

Return to the Table of Contents


Materials related to the early years
of the Vassar College Black Studies Program and the student sit-in staged in 1969
for improvements to the program along with other demands relating to the
African-American community both on campus and off.

Finding Aid Date
Dates: 1966-1974
Collection Title
Vassar College 1969 Black Studies Sit-in Records