Sallie Keller Smith, April 12, 2021

Muhlenberg College: Trexler Library Oral History Repository
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00:00:30 - The Early Influences

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Partial Transcript: SKS: My father went to Muhlenberg College. He went on the G.I. Bill after he got out of the Navy. And it-- it meant a lot to him that I would consider going to Muhlenberg and I’ve always--because I lived near Muhlenberg--I've always been part and parcel of the things that were available to me through the school. So, in high school, I used to use the library and I thought it was a beautiful campus, that it was an excellent school, and it would give me an opportunity to seek a career that may or may not be typically available for women at the time.

Keywords: Father; GI Bill; Muhlenberg College

00:01:26 - Entering Muhlenberg

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Partial Transcript: SB: So, from there, can you just describe for me what it was like entering Muhlenberg? Maybe some of the people who came across, some of your friends you've met in kind of like, how those connections were made?

SKS: Well, I originally applied at Muhlenberg and was accepted, but my father, who was a teacher-- an English and Latin teacher, told me that because I had a younger brother, I could either go to Muhlenberg and live at home or I could go to a state college. And so I applied at West Chester and I went to West Chester University for my freshman year, and though I had some wonderful friends, I was not particularly thrilled about the curriculum at West Chester, so I transferred back to Muhlenberg.

Keywords: Bias; Off-Campus Living; Townie; West Chester

00:09:40 - Reflections

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Partial Transcript: SKS: I would say that because when we went to school, it was a different time than you've experienced. We were still in the Vietnam War. We had lost our friends to the Vietnam War. We-- we were at Muhlenberg when they had the first drawing to-- to pick people to go to war. So I remember some, one of the kids, one of them, boys jumping out of a window on the third floor. It was a very raw time.

Keywords: Association of Black Collegians; Vietnam War; conservatism

00:15:01 - Obstacles for Black Students

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Partial Transcript: in terms of changes that Diane and others may have tried to make, like we talked a little bit on the phone about trying to have a house. What did they face in trying to make those changes or in trying to do activist things or founding the Association of Black Collegians? What-- was there-- were people receptive to that? Were there obstacles? And how important was that to them?

SKS: Well, I know, as I told you, Diane told me that she was really annoyed by the fact that the German students had their own house. So if you were a German major, you could live there or if you were actually from Germany or had a German background, you could live in this house and they all supported one another and helped one another and had a great time. And Diane said to me, “I don't know, I don't understand this. They bring us in the experiment to see how we do. And we are not even put together as roommates necessarily in the dorms, much less having a house of our own, which would have been much nicer and made more sense so that we could support one another and help one another.”

Keywords: Dean Nugent; German House; Scholarship Financing; Social Competition

00:19:20 - Diane Williams Post Graduation

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Partial Transcript: HP: After college, we wanted to ask about, like, your continued relationship with Diane after college and kind of like, also, her post college experience, like some of the jobs she may have had and how you all’s friendship and relationship continued to grow, furthering.

SKS: After college, she went back to New York, and I know that she and Natalie [Francis Shannon-Jackson] and Collette [Crum-Coates] and, I don't know who else, but at least those three got very involved with Buddhism. And I would hear from her about looking for jobs. She wanted to be a writer. And I was kind of casting about looking for a job that I wanted to do. So we would, you know, we would write back and forth. “Have you had any luck? No, but I'm doing this temporary job to pay my rent.” That kind of thing.

Keywords: Buddhism; New York; Writing