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Seven Sisters and a Brother

“Sitting in my dorm one evening during those early days at Swarthmore, I began to feel a sense of doom. Debbie had gone home for the weekend. I was alone and disappointed after the mixer. My throat began to close up. My tongue felt paralyzed. I needed help. It was dark out, a mild fall night. I didn’t see anyone else as I hastened toward the health center. With each step, my sense of dread intensified. I wondered whether I could keep breathing long enough to make it to the Center or if I would pass out and die—utterly alone—along the way. Gone was the comfort of the familiar replaced by strange spaces, strange people, strange ways, and now a strange and never before felt sense of absolute fear. I kept walking.”

Aundrea White Kelley, from Seven Sisters and a Brother

“It was hard to sleep that first night. The reality of actually being inside the admissions office was sobering. We had rehearsed what we would say and how we would say it to the office staff when we took over. That part was executed pretty much as we had envisioned it.”

Bridget Van Gronigen Warren, from Seven Sisters and a Brother

“Now, arriving the first day to live at college, I sensed how much I needed a different kind of help. I needed the unseen help my father described in his sermon, “Seeing the Unseen.” God’s aid is always right there, he’d explain, just beyond obvious obstacles and limitations. We miss it because “man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Use God’s eyes and accomplish what you must.” Marilyn Allman Maye, from Seven Sisters and a Brother

“During a summer break, fresh from anti-war protests at Swarthmore, I joined my two brothers and local activists to picket and protest Tallahassee’s closed pools. My poster, containing words provided by my brother Eddie, said, “My bathtub isn’t big enough.”

Marilyn Holifield, from Seven Sisters and a Brother

“Leaving home was harder than I expected. My brothers were too young to fully understand what was happening, but my mother and my sister did. We all cried and hugged each other several times that morning. My last image of the day I left is of my mother and sister standing outside on the walkway to the driveway, past the white wooden rail fence that my father loved and my mother hated. That is when I first really felt the loss of my family and all the love and security that they represented.”

Myra E. Rose, from Seven Sisters and a Brother

“The message that would eventually become “Black is Beautiful” was reinforced by many voices. As a teenager, I read every issue of Ebony magazine from cover to cover. It was a staple in most Negro households. In addition to uplifting articles about American Negro accomplishments in the arts, sports, and civic organizations and advertisements for the latest Negro beauty products, Ebony featured glowing reports of newly independent African and Caribbean nations. I learned the mellifluous names of Nigerian leaders like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Amadou Bello, and Sir Abubakar Tafawa. Ebony’s black and white photos of Northern Nigerian horsemen in majestic white robes and turbans were awe inspiring.”

Jannette O. Domingo, from Seven Sisters and a Brother

“I was terrified. When I applied to Swarthmore, I had no idea there was a swimming requirement for graduation. Before my class entered, Swarthmore College had no beginners swim class. The administration assumed that every student who came to the College knew how to swim. I needed attention to overcome my fear of deep water and learn the strokes necessary for graduation. I took weekly lessons for two years, gained comfort in the water, and learned to swim four strokes and tread water. I faced a number of challenges at Swarthmore; swimming was only one of them.”

Joyce Frisby Baynes, from Seven Sisters and a Brother

A Story of Student Activists and Civil Rights

Meet the inspirational students: This narrative tells the story of seven women and one man at the heart of a sit-in protesting decreased enrollment and hiring of African Americans at Swarthmore College and demanding a Black Studies curriculum. The book, written by the former students themselves, also includes autobiographical chapters, providing a unique cross-sectional view into the lives of young people during the Civil Rights era.

Correcting media representation: For years the media and some in the school community portrayed the peaceful protest in a negative light—this collective narrative provides a very necessary and overdue retelling of the revolution that took place at Swarthmore College in 1969. The group of eight student protestors have only recently begun to receive credit for the school’s greater inclusiveness, as well as the influence their actions had on universities around the country.

Stories that inspire change: This book chronicles the historical eight-day sit-in at Swarthmore College, and the authors also include untold stories about their family backgrounds and their experiences as student activists. They share how friendships, out-of-the-box alliances, and a commitment to moral integrity strengthened them to push through and remain resilient in the face of adversity.

The incredible true story featured in Seven Sisters and a Brother will teach you:

  • No matter how old or established, institutions can change and will continue to change

  • How to identify fears and work to overcome them

  • That truth will prevail when we unite with others and refuse to accept surrender

If you’ve read titles such as Warriors Don’t CryBetween the World and Me, and Pulse of Perseverance, then you’ll love Seven Sisters and a Brother.


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