Cheryl L. Evans Papers

1946-2019 (Bulk: 1960-2015)
3 boxes, 1 oversize folder (3 linear feet)
Call no.: RG 050/6 E93
rotating decorative images from SCUA collections

A lifelong activist, performer, and educator, Cheryl Lorraine Evans was born in 1946 in west Medford, MA, the eldest of five. As a high school student, Evans attended the march on Washington in 1963, and was then the first in her family to attend college, in 1964 joining the largest class at UMass Amherst to date. She graduated four years later as a pivotal organizer of African American students across campus, the Five Colleges, and in the region – during the period when Black student groups, the Black Cultural Center, and the Black Studies department all had their origins at UMass. Evans was the first elected president of an African American student organization at UMass, and remains an organizer to this day, particularly as a key connector for Black alumni and through her UMass Black Pioneers Project. Evans went on to work at UMass as an assistant area coordinator of Orchard Hill, an area housing the majority of the students of color and CCEBS students on campus at the time, and then for the Urban University Program at Rutgers University. She worked for over a decade in early childhood education, mostly in New Jersey and New York City, then while working for the State of Massachusetts received her MA in Communication from Emerson College, partially to help her public radio show, "Black Family Experience." Evans was the first African American woman to run for City Council in Medford, and was appointed to the Massachusetts Area Planning Council by Governor Dukakis. She taught for five years at Northshore Community College, received her PhD from Old Dominion University in 1997, and ended her career at Bloomfield College, where she was a professor for 18 years until her retirement in 2016. A prolific singer as a child and young adult, Evans was, and continues to be, a performance artist, with several theater pieces focused on Black history, all in addition to her outreach, organizing, and workshops, many focused on increasing the number of Black graduate and doctoral students.



The Cheryl Evans Papers document over 60 years of the life of the educator and activist, including childhood report cards and essays, clippings from the civil rights movement she followed and joined as a high school student, undergraduate records and ephemera, documentation of Black UMass alumni events, and records from her careers in public advocacy, education, and the theater. Evan's time at UMass is especially well documented, including schoolwork, numerous photographs of student life on campus, social and political organization records, including contact lists of and correspondence with Black students, and the original protest demands from the 1970 Mills House protest and march to Whitmore.

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Background on Cheryl Lorraine Evans


An image of: Cheryl Evans with student, Roxbury Summer Program, 1965

Cheryl Evans with student, Roxbury Summer Program, 1965

Activist, organizer, and educator, Cheryl Lorraine Evans was born in April 1946 in West Medford, Massachusetts, the eldest of five children. Her grandfather was a Pullman porter, her father, Warren Evans, a WWII veteran and postal worker, and her mother, Sylvia Johnson, was the first African American postal supervisor in the Boston Postal District. Evans hometown was small and fairly racially diverse. At school students separated themselves into social groups based on their skin color, hair type, and level of popularity. Regardless of these social dynamics, Evans managed to make friends, lead clubs, and perform highly in school. At Medford High School, Evans was placed on the academic track with other high performing students. These classrooms were filled with white students, primarily Jewish, and as a result, Evans learned early on about being one of the only people of color in a room. Her experiences, in school and out, also called Evans to larger participation in the political climate of the times. She was nine when Emmett Till was murdered, and reacted strongly to the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and the deaths of the young girls, who were much like Evans herself. She recalled that the event was "geographically distant, but emotionally personal." An engaged activist at young age, Evans not only followed the Civil Rights Movement, but found ways to get involved, such as busing down to the march on Washington in 1963 as a high school student.

Evans was lucky enough to have caring and determined parents and family by her side throughout her time growing up, who supported her activism, extracurricular pursuits in singing and performance, and also set the expectation that she would attend college after her high school graduation in 1964. When debating where to go to college, Evans's choices included Northeastern, Wheaton College, and the University of Bridgeport. She decided against Northeastern since it was too close to home, Wheaton College did not offer her enough financial aid, and the University of Bridgeport was both too far and expensive. The University of Massachusetts Amherst was her remaining option, and it was both far enough from home and fiscally doable. The first in her family to attend college, Evans arrived at the university in September of 1964, joining the largest class at UMass Amherst to date. Within the first days of attending UMass, Evans realized how miniscule the Black student population was in her class. In a class of nearly 2500, only twelve were of color – six boys and six girls. Of these twelve students only eight graduated. Evans remarked later that she, "felt like pepper in a salt mine. Felt invisible."

Evans deemed her overall experience at UMass as eventful, formative, but also damaging, to her socially and personally. Once her journey began at the university, Evans embarked on one of the most isolating times in her life. During her freshmen year in Amherst she felt both invisible and trapped. Evans was placed in an Arnold House dorm room with two white female roommates from Western Massachusetts who gave Evans the impression they had never encountered a Black woman before. She auditioned for the acapella group the Musicgals, but there were not many social groups or outlets where she felt welcomed or comfortable. Evans spent many days bottling up her feelings and just trying to get through the school year. Her solace was keeping up with the Civil Rights Movement and forming connections with other Black students on campus. In addition to her few classmates, Evans encountered individuals such as graduate student Dorothy Cowser, who later became the president of the HBCU Johnson C. Smith University, and scholar Carolyn Gipson. They gave Evans hope that Black people could end up in leadership roles and work to change the country. Evans's interest in activism became stronger through these interactions. Unfortunately, Evans ended her freshmen year with a low GPA, a lack of comfort within her university, and a lack of self-confidence regarding her academics.

When Evans's sophomore year began she was on academic probation with the university, however her circumstances at UMass were taking a turn for the better. Evans was placed with a roommate who was more comfortable around Black people, and she switched her major to English. Most importantly, Evans discovered a mentor – Dr. Larry Johnson. Dr. Johnson had served in the army with Evans's father, and he opened his office as well as his home to the few Black students at UMass. Evans felt comfortable talking to him about what it meant to be Black on the UMass campus, and Dr. Johnson's home gave her an escape from the university. Moreover, Dr. Johnson organized a tutoring center and a study space for Black students. Additionally, during her second year Evans discovered a tutoring program for Black students in Springfield. She traveled there with her friend Fernanda Williams, and the program introduced her to other Black college students in the surrounding area who were facing the same struggles as her. Evans began to feel less alone and unstable, and as a result her grades began to improve.

By 1966, there were a total of roughly fifty Black students at UMass, which made up .001 percent of the student body. Evans believed the university still viewed Black students as unimportant except for the Black athletes. Evans formed relationships with basketball players such as Tim Edwards, Billy Tindall, and Clarence Hill. While they were all united as racial minorities at UMass, there was still a divide between them as Black men and Black women. Evans drew much strength, encouragement, and joy from her close bonds with the other women of color on campus. They were the often the ones organizing and doing the social and political work. Evans's time at UMass took a life-changing turn between 1967 and 1968, when she became the leader in forming a club for Black students, which she had proposed in 1966. The club was originally founded under the name "The Carver Club," named after George Washington Carver specifically to not intimidate white students on campus. This club later transformed into the Student Afro-American Organization in 1967, and Evans was elected as the club's first President, with Larry Johnson serving as the faculty advisor. In short, the club helped Black students on campus have a voice, a community, and survive their time at UMass. Evans was also instrumental in connecting Black college students from the surrounding schools in the Pioneer Valley, as well as the New England region. UMass Afro-Am organized the first ever Black Arts event in the Valley, the successful "Function at the Junction," which additionally included a concert featuring The Temps. These efforts to create a larger community for social and political engagement were monumental, and reflected the increased organization of Black students on college campuses around the nation during the 1960s and 1970s.

The same year the group became the Student Afro-American Organization, Evans stopped straightening her hair and grew out an Afro. Despite critiques of her hair and appearance, even by an academic advisor, Evans became more comfortable with herself and her surroundings, as well as her new major, changing for the third and final time to Human Development. The switch reflected Evans finally finding her place in academia, in children's education. Beginning in 1965, Evans worked at the Roxbury Summer Program, a tutoring program, which was instrumental in forming her calling to teaching. There, under the guidance of Marilyn Hill, Evans truly learned how to teach children. Overall, Evans believes she would not have made it through her time at UMass without Dr. Larry Johnson and the Black women she united with, on campus and beyond. Evans also described the show "Star Trek" as a "gift" to her while in the Pioneer Valley, inspiring her with its diverse cast and offer of a future full of promise.

Following her graduation from UMass, Evans took a job as an assistant area coordinator in the Orchard Hill Residential Area at UMass. Prior to Evans taking the job, Black students and faculty had gone to campus administration with a proposal to draw more Black students to the university. In the fall of 1968, 125 Black students came to UMass as a part of the new program, Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students (CCEBS, originally Committee for the Collegiate Education of Negro Students, or CCENS), and Evans was hired to "keep them in line." Evans felt that her job was challenging and she was on-call at all times attending to the needs of the Black students. Evans stayed in that position for a year, before electing to take a position at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. The job was within the Urban University Program, which was formed to bring Black students to the university. It was relatively similar to Evans's job at UMass, and at Rutgers, Evans developed a tutor counseling program for Black students and helped to guide them through their time at the university. Evans discovered that even though Rutgers was located closer to a city, they were not doing a better job in supporting their Black students than the administration at UMass. After her time at Rutgers, Evans elected to leave the higher education world and pursued employment in early childhood education. Additionally, Evans married in in 1970 and adopted a son in 1972.

Evans worked for over a decade in early childhood education, mostly in New Jersey and New York City, then while working for the State of Massachusetts received her MA in Communication from Emerson College, partially to help her public radio show, "Black Family Experience" on Kiss 108. Evans ran for City Council in Medford, and later found out she was the first Black woman to do so. Evans didn't win, however she was appointed to the Massachusetts Area Planning Council by Governor Dukakis. In 1986, Evans was hired as faculty member at North Shore Community College. She worked there for 5 years in their human services department teaching primarily adult students. Evans taught both personal growth and counseling skills courses. In 1991, Evans decided to attend graduate school at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. She partially chose Old Dominion because she did not want to be the only Black person. While the thought of pursuing a PhD never crossed her mind before, her close friend Don Brown encouraged her to do so, and in December 1997 she completed her dissertation on issues of white race identity and white males as the minority.

Evans worked at the University of Evansville for one year, and this short-lived experience revealed that the Midwest was not an area of the United States she wanted to live in for an extended period of time. Evans had, "outgrown the need to suffer," and was over being one of the few Black people in a community or on a campus. After leaving Indiana, Evans began an eighteen year long career as a full time faculty member at Bloomfield College, in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Evans worked in the Teacher Education Program, where she taught students, of all different backgrounds, how to be teachers. Evans felt a strong connection to her students, and in turn she taught her students how to make an impact on their future students. Evans believed that her courses were difficult and that her students had to exude excellence in order to succeed. She retired from her rewarding and influential teaching career in June of 2016.

Today, Evans is content with influential life she has led thus far, but continues to organize and present at the local, regional, and national level. A prolific singer as a child and young adult, Evans was, and continues to be, a performance artist, with several theater pieces focused on Black history, all in addition to her outreach, organizing, and workshops, many focused on increasing the number of Black graduate and doctoral students. One of the main lessons she learned at UMass – that one cannot be an idealist and get things done, one has to get practical, form, and organize – still rings true in her life. Her work connecting Black students across campus and campuses continues today with her work connecting Black alumni, particularly through her correspondence and attendance at UMass alumni events, and the UMass Black Pioneers Project. Formed to collect the stories and histories of Black students on campus around the same time as Evans, during the late 1960s through the 1970s, the Black Pioneers Project is another way Evans is helping to unite minority students, and connect them over space and time. While there is still a long way to go in making UMass a diverse and inclusive campus, when Evans receives the UMass Alumni magazine she is proud to see numerous students of color depicted throughout the pages. One of her friends, Bill Harris, ran the student center at UMass, and the basketball team, which is made up of majority Black players, is sometimes nationally ranked. Moreover the faculty and staff of UMass Amherst is now much more diverse. Evans believes that her and her fellow Black pioneers laid down the foundation for UMass Amherst to become a place that welcomes people of all backgrounds, especially those who are typically overlooked. Her journey has taken her far from her hometown of West Medford, and Evans especially values the countless friendships she has made over the years, believing she would not have made it as far as she has without the support of others. Evans has retired in Hampton, Virginia, and is now focused on having fun and on herself, making up for some of the time she lost in her youth due to social conditions and her political activism.

Scope of collection

The Cheryl Evans Papers document over sixty years of the life of the educator and activist. Though small in size, the collection is rich and fairly comprehensive in its coverage of Evans's life. Her childhood interests, education, and activities are documented in school report cards and assignments, clippings, event and performance programs, correspondence, awards, and photographs. It is particularly clear that Evans was drawn to, and collected material from, the Civil Rights Movement. Of special interest are records and photographs documenting Evans's time as a student and organizer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, including photographs of dorm and campus social life, and records of Evans's as one of the earliest activists working on behalf of Black students on campus and in the region. The work of organizing and connecting a small and dispersed community is evident in contact lists, clippings, early Black student publications and ephemera from the 1960s and 1970s. Of note are photographs documenting the 1968 march to Whitmore, made by Black students in response to several incidents on campus, and the original handwritten demands they presented to administration, "Grievances of the Afro-American at the Univ. of Mass." Evans's severe speech on campus in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. is also reflective of the emotions and divisions on campus during that critical national moment. Later records document Evans's careers in public advocacy, education, and the performing arts, as well as her continued commitment to Black students and alumni of UMass Amherst, particularly through the UMass Black Pioneers Project.

Inventory

70th birthday party
2016
Box 1: 1
Alley Theatre posters
ca.1986
Folder OS
Awards, certificates
1957-1967
Box 1: 2
Awards, certificates
1999-2004
Box 3
Awards
1990-1991
Box 1: 3
Awards - American Legion School Award
1961
Box 1: 4
Awards - Jewish War Veterans of the USA
1964
Box 3
Awards - Jewish War Veterans of the USA Brotherhood Award
1964
Box 1: 5
Awards - Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges
1967
Box 1: 6
Bloomfield College
2003-2011
Box 1: 7
Bloomfield College - Study leave report ln increasing Black, Latino, and male teachers
2006 Feb
Box 1: 8
Car
ca.1968-1970
Box 1: 9
Cards
ca.1967-1972
Box 1: 10-13
Clippings
ca.1963-1970
Folder OS
Clippings
ca.1966-1995
Box 1: 14-16
Clippings - cartoons
ca.1970-1971
Box 1: 17
Clippings - Evans, Cheryl
1961-1975, 1997
Box 1: 18
Clippings - Medford, MA
ca.1961-1971
Box 1: 19
Clippings - West Medford, MA
2013
Box 1: 20
Clippings - West Side Story
1961
Box 1: 21
Clippings - "Whiteout: Life as Black Student at UMass Amherst"
2016
Box 1: 22
Collinsville Childcare Center
1971
Box 1: 23
Correspondence
1966-1967
Box 1: 24
Correspondence
ca.1968-1969
Box 1: 25
Correspondence
1969
Box 1: 26
Correspondence
1970
Box 1: 27-18
Correspondence
1971-1981
Box 1: 29
Correspondence
2010-2015
Box 1: 30
Correspondence - Christmas Cheer Newssheet
1968 Dec
Box 1: 31
Correspondence - family
ca.1959-1975
Box 1: 32
Correspondence - pen pal
1959-1961
Box 1: 33
Correspondence - The President's Initiative on Race
1998
Box 1: 34
Delta Sigma Theta
ca.1967, 1999
Box 1: 35
Delta Sigma Theta - paddles (three)
1967
Emerson College - "Is He the One?"
1979
Box 1: 36
Employment, various
1963-1975
Box 1: 37
Entertainment/Events - playbills, programs
1967-1989
Box 1: 38
Entertainment/Events - tickets
1964-1975
Box 1: 39
Evans, Sylvia
1970
Box 1: 40
Evans, Sylvia and Warren - poem
1956
Box 1: 41
Hervey Elementary School
1956-1957
Box 1: 42
Hervey Elementary School - report cards
1953-1957
Box 1: 43
Hill, Clarence - obituary
2004 May
Box 1: 44
Hobbs Junior High School
1959-1962
Box 1: 45
Hobbs Junior High School - report cards
1958-1960
Box 1: 46
"Holding the Pearl of Great Price"
ca.1992-1999
Box 1: 47
Invitations
ca.1965-1972
Box 1: 48
Jackson, Jessie Presidential campaign - poster and button
1984
Folder OS
JAZZ '69
1969
Box 1: 49
March on Washington
1963 Aug
Box 1: 50
March on Washington - clippings
1963
Box 1: 51
March on Washington - 50th anniversary interview
2013
Box 1: 52
Medford CETA Summer Youth Project - Kids in Theater
1979
Box 1: 53
Medford City Council campaign
1977
Box 1: 54
Medford City Council campaign - bumper stickers
1977
Folder OS
Medford High School - Art
ca.1962
Box 1: 55
Medford High School - Biology
1961-1962
Box 1: 56-57
Medford High School - correspondence
1964
Box 1: 58
Medford High School - dances, events
1961-1964
Box 1: 59
Medford High School - English
1961-1964
Box 1: 60
Medford High School - French
ca.1963-1970
Box 1: 61
Medford High School - report cards
1959-1964
Box 1: 62
Medford High School - reunion
1969
Box 1: 63
Medford High School - science fair
1962
Box 1: 64
Medford High School - Senior Week, commencement
1964
Box 1: 65
Nametags
2000-2005
Box 1: 66
Northshore Community College - Project Venture
1985-1986
Box 1: 67
Northshore Community College - teaching evaluations
1988
Box 1: 68
Old Dominion University - commencement, dissertation events
1977
Box 1: 69
Old Dominion University - commencement
1998 Dec
Box 1: 70
Old Dominion University - "Spectrum"
1993 Apr
Box 1: 71
Old Dominion University - study rejection
1995
Box 1: 72
Performances, music recitals
ca.1962-1965, 1982-1987
Box 1: 73
Performances, speaking engagements
1975, 1990-2018
Box 1: 74
Photographs - inventory, pre- and post- University of Massachusetts
2018
Box 1: 75
Photographs
1946, 1958-1969
Box 1: 76
Photographs
ca.1970-1978
Box 1: 77
Photographs
1980-1988
Box 1: 78
Photographs
1992-2015
Box 1: 79
Photographs - inventory, University of Massachusetts
2018
Box 1: 80
Photographs - University of Massachusetts
ca.1964-1969
Box 1: 81-84
Plaques
1993, 2003
Box 3
Resume
1970
Box 1: 85
Resume - job offers (Peace Corps, University of Massachusetts)
1968
Box 1: 86
Roxbury Work Study Program
1965
Box 1: 87
Roxbury Work Study Program - children's letters
ca.1965
Box 1: 88
Roxbury Work Study Program - photographs
1965
Box 1: 89
Rutgers University - Urban University Department
ca.1970
Box 1: 90
Science publications
1962-1964
Box 1: 91
Script - "If Girls Asked Boys for Dates," Project K.I.T.
1979
Box 3
South Carolina State - commencement
1967
Box 1: 92
South End Music Centre
1961-1963
Box 1: 93
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) - benefit, Dick Gregory and the Freedom Singers
1964 Apr
Box 1: 94
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) - support of H. Rap Brown
1967
Box 1: 95
Tri-City Black Students Alliance
ca.1967
Box 1: 96
University of Connecticut - "Black Experience" Forum
1968 Apr
Box 1: 97
University of Massachusetts - African American alumni, students, and organizations contact lists
1969-1970
Box 1: 98
University of Massachusetts - African American organizations contact list
1969 Jun
Box 1: 99
University of Massachusetts - African American students contact list
ca.1970
Box 1: 100
University of Massachusetts - Afro Am/CCEBS notes
ca.1970
Box 1: 101
University of Massachusetts - Alumni Connection newspaper
1993
Box 1: 102
University of Massachusetts - Assistant Area Coordinator
1969
Box 1: 103
University of Massachusetts - Assistant Area Coordinator
1969-1970
Box 1: 104
University of Massachusetts - Assistant Area Coordinator - Counselor Assistant Program
1969
Box 1: 105
University of Massachusetts - Association of Black Alumni - reunion efforts
1970-1972
Box 1: 106
University of Massachusetts - Black alumni efforts
1990-1992
Box 1: 107
University of Massachusetts - Black History Month poster
2003
Folder OS
University of Massachusetts - Black Organization of Students - proposal for drug policy
ca.1968
Box 1: 108
University of Massachusetts - clippings
1968-1971, 1990
Box 1: 109
University of Massachusetts - Class of 1968 25th reunion
1993
Box 1: 110
University of Massachusetts - Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students (CCEBS) - 1st Annual Banquet
1972 May
Box 1: 111
University of Massachusetts - Committee for the Collegiate Education of Black Students (CCEBS) - budget cut
1969 Apr
Box 1: 112
University of Massachusetts - correspondence ("UMass History")
2010
Box 1: 113
University of Massachusetts - The Drum magazine
1969
Box 1: 114
University of Massachusetts - The Drum magazine
1984
Box 1: 115
University of Massachusetts - "Grievances of the Afro-American at the Univ. of Mass."
1968
Box 1: 116
University of Massachusetts - report cards
1964-1968
Box 1: 117
University of Massachusetts - Seven College Afro-American Alliance - Black Arts Festival
1969 Jan
Box 1: 118
University of Massachusetts - speech at MLK Memorial Service
1963 Apr
Box 1: 119
University of Massachusetts - student fee bill
1967
Box 1: 120
University of Massachusetts - W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies - student interview questions
2010
Box 1: 121
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - Black Pioneer Project and survey
2018
Box 1: 122
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - Community Scholarship Program brochure
2015
Box 1: 123
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - contact lists
2015
Box 1: 124
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - contact lists
2016-2018
Box 1: 125
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - correspondence
2009-2017
Box 1: 126
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - cover
ca.2016
Box 1: 127
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - notes
ca.2015
Box 1: 128
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - promotions, T-shirts
2018
Box 1: 129
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - program
2016
Box 1: 130
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - program
2015
Box 1: 131
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - speeches
ca.2015
Box 1: 132
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - October
2015
Box 1: 133
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - November
2015
Box 1: 134
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - December
2015
Box 1: 135
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - January
2016
Box 1: 136
UMass Black Pioneer reunion binder - T-shirt
ca.2016
Box 2: 8
Video - Holding the Pearl of Great Price [VHS]
2011
Box 2
Video - Holding the Pearl of Great Price [DVD]
2019
Box 2: 1
Video - Medford Election, host CLE [VHS]
1988
Box 2
Video - MLK Speaker [VHS]
1996
Box 2
Video - NEWN, IWD Cable Fest [VHS]
ca.1980
Box 2
Wedding
1970
Box 2: 2
Women on the Edge Productions
1992
Box 2: 3
Writing - Our Stories - "Crazy, with Bushy Hair"
2002
Box 2: 4
Writing - poetry, notes, vows
ca.1956-1972
Box 2: 5
Writing - Pot Likker: Stories for Teachers & Learners - "April"
2001
Box 2: 6
Writing - "Sylvia Solomon"
2001
Box 2: 7

Administrative information

Access

The collection is open for research.

Provenance

Acquired from Cheryl L. Evans, 2018.

Processing Information

Processed by Samantha Sims, 2018-2019.

See also:

UMass Black Pioneers Project Records.

Cheryl Evans oral histories.

Language:

English

Copyright and Use (More information )

Cite as: Cheryl L. Evans Papers (RG 050/6 E93). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Search terms

Subjects

  • African American college students--Massachusetts
  • African American women teachers
  • African Americans--Education--Massachusetts
  • University of Massachusetts--Alumni
  • University of Massachusetts--Students

Contributors

  • Evans, Cheryl Lorraine [main entry]

Genres and formats

  • Photographs

Link to similar SCUA collections