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Behind the Takeover

Seven of the eight authors of Seven Sisters and a Brother: Friendship, Resistance, and Untold Truths Behind Black Student Activism in the 1960s returned to campus in February to share their reflections on a tumultuous and transformative time at the College — including the eight-day takeover of the Admissions Office they organized in 1969.

Their actions at the time came in response to the low numbers of Black students on campus and to the insensitivity and lack of administrative support they experienced. 

“The activism of these courageous alumni paved the way for future generations of Swarthmore students,” President Valerie Smith said in her opening remarks. “At great risks to themselves, they fought for justice at the College and forever changed our trajectory.”

Smith also apologized on behalf of the College for a 1968 admissions report that served as a catalyst for the office takeover. The report included Black students’ SAT scores, family incomes, and other personal details, and was placed on general reserve at McCabe Library. The president’s apology drew applause, as well
as the authors’ acceptance.

Harold Buchanan ’69, one of the panelists, noted that the co-authors’ relationship with the College has vastly improved since their time on campus. “Because of the way the College has welcomed and received us,” he added, “our share of the proceeds from the book are being donated to the College for Black Studies in support of the Black community here.”

Also participating in the panel discussion were Joyce Frisby Baynes ’68, Jannette Domingo ’70, Marilyn Holifield ’69, Marilyn Allman Maye ’69, Myra E. Rose ’70, and Aundrea White Kelley ’72. Fellow co-author Bridget Van Gronigen Warren ’70 was unable to attend.