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Second Phase of 'Who Built Bryn Mawr?' Looks at 1960s Students Confronting Race

November 8, 2021

Earlier this month, the physical components of the latest exhibition in the "Who Built Bryn Mawr?" project were installed throughout campus.

The second phase of WBBM?, "The 1960s: Students Confronting Race," was created by  Keyla Benitez ’24, Bankston Creech ’22, Elliot Fleming ’22, and Carolina Molina ’23. Emma Ruth Burns '21 and Katy Rosenthal (M.A. candidate, history of art) acted as project assistants, with faculty and staff advisors Ignacio Gallup-Diaz, Allison Mills, Carrie Robbins, and Monique Scott.

Several of the students involved with the latest exhibition will take part in an opening reception being held from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16, in the Great Hall of Old Library.

Topics and events highlighted in the exhibition include Black arts festivals held in 1968 and 1969, student advocacy for the all-Black maids and porters working at the College, the 1964 Second American Revolution conference that brought together more than 200 delegates from colleges across the country and featured nationally recognized civil rights activists, the beginnings of a Black Studies program, an exchange program with Southern Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the participation of Bryn Mawr students in national civil rights protests. 

On-campus exhibits are located at the Canaday Library atrium and the second floor Coombe Suite, the Kaiser Reading Room in Carpenter Library, in the Great Hall and outside of room 110 in Old Library, the alcove opposite classroom B in Taylor Hall, and at the Campus Center lobby. View a map of displays.

The undergraduate students performed their research as part of a 10-week paid summer internship at the College. To learn more about what drew each student to the project, check out the "About the Curator" at the bottom of each section in the exhibition. 

"What I took away from this experience is finding comfort in my identity at Bryn Mawr," says curator Keyla Benitez ’24. "As a first generation low-income Mexican-American student attending a predominately white institution it can be very difficult. After being in the archives and only being able to find two photographs of HBCU exchange, I was able to empathize with the shared experiences on both ends of the spectrum."

The genesis of “Who Built Bryn Mawr?” goes back to 2017, when the College created a History Working Group to examine histories of exclusion in the College’s past. 

Discussions and plans related to the College’s histories continued the next year with several working groups, and in the Fall of 2019 a History Advisory Committee of faculty, students, and staff was created, as was the idea for “Who Built Bryn Mawr?”

The making of Bryn Mawr is ongoing. Its students, staff, and faculty members continually reshape the College. How we tell the College's histories should reflect this diversity of voices and experiences. "Who Built Bryn Mawr?" is envisioned as an ongoing, collective research project aimed at telling the College's history in new ways.

The College is committed to this collective effort to change the way we understand our history. Information about summer 2022 internships will be shared in the spring semester.