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Abstract

In 1969, Bryn Mawr College hired the notorious Communist Herbert Aptheker to teach the inaugural course in what would become the Black Studies Program. Using primary sources, this essay examines the decision to hire Aptheker and what this decision can tell us about campus politics during the late-60’s/early-70’s. A sharp divide can be seen between conservative and leftist students, parents, alumnae, and even those unassociated with the College who felt it their civic or academic duty to object to or approve of the decision to hire Aptheker. As an institution of learning, Bryn Mawr’s decision of how to teach about those whose experiences have been marginalized deals with questions of who is telling whose history and how that history will be told – in particular, whether to instate a Black Studies Program with courses integrated into the general College curriculum, or have the courses separated in a potential Black Studies Department. Ultimately, this essay argues that the melee surrounding the Aptheker appointment was a product of the racial tension on-campus and amongst those with a stake in the History the College was constructing.

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