The past few months have been a challenging time for archivists everywhere as we adjust to doing our work remotely. Fortunately, the materials available in Amherst College Digital Collections enable us to continue doing much of our work.
Back in February, I posted about five Black students from the 1870s and 1880s — Black Men of Amherst, 1877-1883 — and now we’re moving into the early 20th century. A small clue in The Olio has revealed another Black student that was not included in Harold Wade’s Black Men of Amherst. Robert Sinclair Hartgrove (AC 1905) was known to Wade, as was Robert Mattingly (AC 1906), but we did not know about Robert Henry Meriwether. These three appear to be the first Black students to attend Amherst in the twentieth century.
The text next to Hartgrove’s picture in the 1905 yearbook gives us a tiny glimpse into his time at Amherst. The same yearbook shows Hartgrove not just jollying the players, but playing second base for the Freshman baseball team during the 1902 season.
The reference to Meriwether sent me to the Amherst College Biographical Record, where I found Robert Henry Meriwether listed as a member of the Class of 1904. A little digging into the College Catalogs revealed that he belongs with the Class of 1905.
Hartgrove and Meriwether are both listed as members of the Freshman class in the 1901-02 catalog. The catalog also notes that they were both from Washington, DC and the Biographical Record indicates that they both prepped at Howard University before coming to Amherst. We find Meriwether’s name in the catalog for 1902-03, but he did not “pull through” as The Olio hopes Hartgrove will; Meriwether returned to Howard University where he earned his LLB in 1907. Hartgrove also became a lawyer, earning his JB from Boston University in 1908 and spending most of his career in Jersey City, NJ.
Mattingly was born in Louisville, KY in 1884 and prepped for Amherst at The M Street School in Washington, DC, which changed its name in 1916 to The Dunbar School. Matt Randolph (AC 2016) wrote “Remembering Dunbar: Amherst College and African-American Education in Washington, DC” for the book Amherst in the World, which includes more details of Mattingly’s life.
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