More events honor 50 years of black students at W&M

The 2017-2018 academic year marks the 50th anniversary of the first African-American residential students admitted to William & Mary. In 1967, Lynn Briley, Janet Brown Strafer and Karen Ely arrived at William & Mary. The university honors them and William & Mary’s entire African-American community

, past and present, this year through “Building on the Legacy,” a series of special events, guest speakers and performances. All events are free and open to the public,unless otherwise noted.

The commemoration’s theme is Sankofa, which, in the Akan Language of West Africa, reflects the idea that “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.” The philosophy is famously represented by the Adinkra symbol of a bird with its head turned backward, taking an eggfrom its back. "Building on the Legacy" calls back to the Sankofa teaching that the past must be known andunderstood in order to move forward and make the most of the future. – Ed.           


"Lemonade," the mural that launched the 50th commemoration.

The work of African-American artist and educator Steve Prince is the focus of a special exhibition, “Communal Resurrection,” in Andrews Hall running the month of March. Prince has visited William & Mary before, teaching middle-school students and working with a summer class to develop a muralthat launched the yearlong commemoration. He will also participate in the Lemon Project Symposium (below). A reception, Leah Glenn Dance Theatre performance and gallery talk for “Communal Resurrection” will be held on March 15 at 4:30 p.m. in Andrews Hall, partially funded by the W&M Arts & Sciences Annual Fund.

Some of the first African-American alumnae and faculty will return to William & Mary at 6 p.m. on March 15 for “Learning from the Past to Shape the Future,” a panel discussion hosted by the School of Education’s Higher Education Program that will explore the experiences of these trailblazers as well equity and inclusion in higher education. Moderated by Assistant Professor Stephanie Blackmon, the panel will be held at the School of Education’s Holly Room. It will include two of the three African-American students first in residence at William & Mary — Lynn Briley ’71 and Janet Brown Strafer ’71, M.Ed. ’77 — who both went on to be educators. Joining them are James M. Patton, professor emeritus, and Brenda Williams, professor emeritus.



The Lemon Project and the 50th commemoration committee have joined forces for this year’s spring symposium, scheduled March 16-17 and themed “Desegregating Higher Education in Virginia: William & Mary in Historical Context.” The March 16 events will be held in the Commonwealth Auditorium, while the March 17 events are scheduled at the School of Education. Poet Nikki Giovanni is the keynote speaker, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on March 17. The two-day event features presentations, panels and performances, plus a hands-on workshop with artist Steve Prince, who with W&M students created the mural “Lemonade: A Picture of America” to launch the 50thcommemoration:

  • “The Second Line: Redressing American Systems of Education” is a talk offered by Prince at 9:30 a.m. on March 16.
  • A roundtable at 10:15 a.m. on March 16 will discuss the relationship between William & Mary and the local African-American community. Featuring Anthony Conyers, Edith Heard, Virginia Wells and Clarence Wilson.
  • A roundtable at 1 p.m. on March 16 will explore the work of Nikki Giovanni in a larger context.
  • Steve Prince will lead the “Lemon Revival” workshop at 3 p.m. on March 16.
  • Colonial Williamsburg interpreter Valerie Gray-Holmes will perform “The New Gatekeepers” at 7 p.m. on March 16.
  • The Leah Glenn Dance Theatre will perform to Nikki Giovanni’s poetry at 9:30 a.m. on March 17 to introduce the poet before she delivers the keynote address.
  • A panel will explore “Seeing the Unseen and Telling the Untold: Institutions, Individuals and Desegregating the University of Richmond” at 10:45 a.m. on March 17.
  • “Desegregating Education: Placing W&M in Historical Context” at 1 p.m. on March 17 invites the personal narratives of those who were at William & Mary during the pivotal era of desegregation. Moderated by Law School Dean Davison Douglas, the panel will include Lillian Ashcraft-Eason Ph.D. ’75, Lynn Briley ’71, Jane Brown Strafer ’71, Michael Engs ’69 and Sam Sadler ’64, M.Ed. ’71.

Learn more about these upcoming events.