Social Spaces: Systems of Support on Campus

Black Student Organization Lounge, 1972

Members of the BSO gathered in this space to hang out, play cards, listen to music, and discuss important issues. 

As the first three African-American residential students, the Legacy 3 felt the pressure of being a good example for those who would follow them. “The federal government was saying the door shall be opened and our [high school] teachers were saying you are the ones who will walk through them,” Briley said. They were also aware as students that their social experience was quite different from that of their peers attending historically black colleges.

In Brown, Briley, and Ely’s first couple years at the college, the only other African Americans at William and Mary were the employees. In many instances, the staff had a paternal relationship with the Legacy 3. They were very protective, giving them extra food in the cafeteria, then Trinkle Hall. Briley recalled that the “housekeepers would do special things for them that they did not do for anyone else.” The reference librarian would also set aside science books for Karen Ely each semester.

The Black Student Organization became their social scene on campus as more African-American students arrived. The BSO was “an organization that confirmed our validity on campus.” The three women were charter members for the BSO, founded their junior year by Warren W. Buck III M.S. '70, Ph.D. '76, D.Sc. '13. Meetings were informal, where they could listen to music, play cards, discuss their experiences, and support each other. It was also an outlet for activism. For example, members of the BSO challenged the playing of Dixie at football games by suggesting that such action would lead to the burning of small Confederate flags. The song has never been played since.


Social Spaces: Systems of Support on Campus