Black at Reed

Black alumni look back at the challenges they faced, the mentors they found, and the strategies they used to make the college more inclusive—and more just.

By Brandon Zero ’11, Guest Editor | July 12, 2021

The story of Reed has mostly been told from the perspective of white people. When people of color have been included, their stories have usually been filtered through white reporters, white editors, and a conceptual framework constructed by white people.

In this feature, we aim to turn the lens around. We invited Black alumni from different eras to open up about their experiences at Reed. At a moment when America is finally coming to grips with an ugly legacy of white supremacy and structural racism, we hope these stories will illuminate a side of Reed that has too often gone unspoken.

What follows is an attempt at montage. Discrete snapshots from separate lives show scenes worthy in their own right that, when displayed together, speak to the ineffable texture of a history. A professor’s journey to reshape Reed’s trajectory on race across three decades. A student’s search for her place in a curriculum spurs an extracurricular ethnic studies program to supplant absences across Reed syllabi. Reedies Against Racism activists grapple with recent struggles. And voices long overlooked add their own scenes in their own framing.

This is a gesture at capturing a fragment of Black life at Reed.

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The Long Arc

Prof. Mary James has been working to reshape Reed’s trajectory on race for three decades.

Seizing The Moment

Frustrated by Reed’s Eurocentric curriculum, these students went rogue and built their own DIY alternative.

Learning From the Past

Protestors in 2016 looked to the experience of an earlier generation—and adapted their tactics to suit new circumstances.

“What have we been through?”

Alumni of color look back on life at a predominantly white institution through the lens of the ongoing civil rights movement

In Our Own Words

Reed Magazine surveyed Black alumni across the years about their experience at the college.

Milestones in Black History at Reed

We uncover some of the people and events that have too often been marginalized or glossed over.

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Tags: Alumni, Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, Professors, Reed History, Students