September 7, 2010

The Amherst Club - Notes

September 7, 2010

A large company of members and guests created a festive buzz at lunch today.  They heard a fascinating and disturbing aspect of Amherst's past, as told by Jim Smith.  Jim, a former town engineer, is almost single-handedly responsible for documenting the burial sites in West Cemetery, and in the process became drawn in to the history of African Americans in Amherst, since many are buried there, some with their own families but some with the families of their owners.  There is no way around it -- Amherst was a slave-owning town from its beginnings until the Emancipation Proclamation.  Many of the leading families whose names now adorn our streets were slave-holders.  Sometimes the distinction between being a slave and being a family retainer was blurred, but life was not easy for African Americans here.  Still, many young Amherst black men served heroically in the Civil War; the film "Glory" documents the deeds of their battalion, and several may be buried in West Cemetery.  Jim's documentation of West Cemetery can be found on the town website under Services/GIS.  The site "Digital Amherst" also contains information about African Americans in Amherst.

Among the guests today were Emily Cates, Bob Romer (with Jim Smith a pioneer in studies of African Americans in this area), Jill Sherman, Joan Ross Logan, Peggy and Jim Ganatta, Judy Smith, Margot Atkinson, Chris O'Brien, Jerry Houseman, and Adriane Stair.  We were glad to welcome all of them.

Carolyn Holstein asked for members to volunteer for the sponsorship committee for Love Notes.  A substantial part of our income comes from business and professional sponsors but they have to be asked before they will donate.  Please consider contributing to that effort.

Doris Holden reminded members to bring books and magazines for her to take to Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Lois Barber announced that her organization, Earth Action, is joining several other progressive organizations at 44 North Prospect Street.  There will be an Open House there on September 30th, from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Isaac Ben Ezra announced that interviews with the two candidates for District Attorney can be found on ACTV Channel 12 at various times, or On Demand.  Harry Brooks noted that one of the candidates will be on WMUA this Sunday.

Tina Berins still needs families to host international students by inviting them to dinner or to an event or something of that sort.  Get in touch with Tina for more information.

Arthur Kinney announced that the Renaissance Center Fall Newsletter is out and contains an article by Honore David.

Therese Donahue has broken her ankle and is hobbling about in a boot.

Michael Greenebaum announced the death of Gerry Grady, a founding member of The Amherst Club and an important part of UMass and Amherst.


Michael Greenebaum, Note-taker