Historical Context of the Black Cultural Center
Perry House is located on the outskirts of the main undergraduate campus. It was purchased by Bryn Mawr College from the Perry family in 1962. This building was originally designated as the Spanish language house. In the 1970s, The Sisterhood , an affinity support group for African American women, requested that the College designate this house as the Black Cultural Center. The students requested that the facility serve as a residential space, as well as home to the Black Library, and be a meeting space for business and social functions. As time progressed, Perry House also became home for students of Bryn Mawr African and Caribbean Student Organization BACaSO, an affinity group that supports and teaches about the experiences of students from the African Diaspora and Caribbean, and Mujeres, a support network and teaching organization for Latin@ students.
In March 2012, the College informed undergraduate students that Perry House would have to be taken offline, and no longer be accessible to the public. Former Undergraduate Dean Michele Rasmussen explained “the physical condition of Perry House as a student residential and social space is becoming a source of concern, both for the residents and for us in the administration. Thus, I thought it was important to start a conversation with the current residents of Perry, along with the leadership of Sisterhood, BACaSO, Mujeres, [Assistant Dean and Director of Leadership and Community Development] Vanessa Christman and [Director of Residential Life] Angie Sheets to discuss some options moving forward.”
After preliminary conversations, students began to realize there was a larger issue at hand: where did members of these affinity groups belong in the larger campus community? Students organized a Perry House Coalition to save Perry House in its physicality, as well as its history. This coalition revealed the lack of documented history the College had on African Americans and other ethnic minorities. Through various meetings and open forums the College agreed that there was a need to add this rich history to institutional memory. In spring 2013, the College launched the Pensby Center Internships to begin this research.