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John Brown Russwurm African American Center

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Russwurm African American Center

Originally built in 1827 for Professor Alpheus Spring Packard, professor of ancient language and classical literature, who in 1836 sold half to William Smyth, professor of mathematics. For the next thirty-five years the house was known as the Packard-Smyth House. The house has also been known as the Mitchell-Little House (after subsequent owners).

Africana Studies


John Brown Russwurm African American Center

Across the street from the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library is the John Brown Russwurm African American Center. The building was named in honor of John Brown Russwurm (class of 1826), who was the third African-American student to graduate from college in the United States. The center library houses more than 2000 volumes on all aspects of Africana studies as well as many scholarly journals and computers for students’ use, the Africana Studies program office and professors’ offices, rooms where upper class students may choose to live, and a kitchen and lounge area. It was opened in 1970 as a center for African American studies. It stands in front of 16-story Coles Tower.

The rumors concerning the house as an Underground Railroad Station in the middle of the nineteenth century are not documented and cannot be positively proven. However, it is well documented that Professor William Smyth was an avid abolitionist. In a published work, Smyth's son does reminisce on the many fugitives that visted their home in the night and were gone by morning's light.

John Van Surley DeGrasse and Thomas Joiner White, believed to be the first black doctors educated in the United States, graduated from Bowdoin's Medical College of Maine (1820-1921) in 1849.

Africana Studies

The Africana Studies program allows students to explore the experiences of people of African, African-American, Latin American and Caribbean descent. The program is interdisciplinary, drawing on courses in anthropology, history, english, sociology, music, religion, art and other departments. In addition to ten core courses, students must take a concentration of four related courses to explore a particular theme in depth, such as Race and Class in America, Cultures of the African Diaspora, The Arts of Black America, etc.

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