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Black Alumnae of Smith College (BASC) 

& Smith College Club of New York City

How We Celebrated

Otelia Cromwell in

New York City

You can start by celebrating Otelia Cromwell Day in your local community. But why wait? Start today! Join or start an Affinity group and collaborate with your local Smith College Club. To set up a Smith College Affinity group is quite easy. Contact AASC for guidelines.

Black Alumnae of Smith College (BASC), the College’s first official Affinity group, is happy to share how we formed our group. Some years ago, BASC initiated regional ‘chapters’ in Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago, California, Florida, Texas, Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. BASC has hosted ‘Soul Teas’ in New York for the past couple of years. A BASC trip to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC is also in the works!

What's next? If you attended the 2017 NYC Otelia Day event, we would love your feedback! BASC is interested to collaborate and assist more alumnae engagement on race, inclusion, and diversity. If you are interested in BASC events, networking, trips/travel, museums, galleries, theater, and 'soul teas,' please fill out form below.

Smithies, it is time to come back together! Let's keep the dialogue going about Race, Diversity, and Inclusion! We can do this!

How to Keep the Dialogue Going

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Otelia Cromwell Day is a Smith College community-wide celebration! Fall classes are usually cancelled and an annual slate of workshops, lectures, films and entertainment are convened to honor Smith’s first African American graduate.

Past campus keynote speakers have included: Roxane Gay, writer-professor; Sonia Sanchez, poet/arts activist; and Dr. Julianne Malveaux, economist-commentator.

This year (2017) was the second New York City Otelia Cromwell Day. We were honored to host keynote speakers Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, Smith Professor of History and Dr. Carla Shedd, Class of 2000, Professor of Urban Education, City University of New York. Last year’s (2016) NYC keynote speakers were Smith Professors Paula Giddings and Riché Daniel Barnes.


The first 'official' Otelia Cromwell Day was held in 1989 to provide the Smith community with an opportunity for further education and reflection about racism and diversity.

However, 1970s African American students started the ‘original’ Otelia Cromwell recognitions. Their campus activism on racism, recruitment, retention, inclusion, and privilege, are still important issues today!

The class of 1974, the largest class of Black students, considered the question: “If we are the largest group, who was the first? Their research led to the discovery of Otelia Cromwell and other distinguished nineteenth century African American students! The 70s students formed the ‘Otelia Society’ and designed and wore T-shirts with imprints of Otelia Cromwell’s photo.


Years later Otelia Cromwell was embraced as an official Smith tradition. The aftermath of campus racial unrest led Mary Maples Dunn, president emerita of Smith College, to initiate Otelia Cromwell Day in 1989.

Special Thanks

Hosted by:

Sylvia Lewis '74 and Linda Charles '74 


Home of Sylvia & Byron Lewis


Norma Jean Darden of Spoonbread, New York. 

Keynote speakers:

Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, Associate Professor of History at Smith College

Carla Shedd '00, Associate Professor of Urban Education at CUNY 

Q&A, Dialogue with Guest speakers:

Serena Williams '81, VP, Alumnae Association of Smith College (AASC) Natalie James '18 Black Student Association (BSA), President 

Book signing: 

Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship Before the Civil War by Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor
Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perception of Injustice by Carla Shedd

Photographer: Reina Mitchell, Smith '15

Web Design: Vivian Lee, Mount Holyoke '16

Website Coordinator: Sylvia 'Cookie' Smith Lewis '74

Assorted Gourmet Cheeses, Crackers and Fruit Patter,

Crudite & Dips, Mini Chicken and Waffles with Maple Syrup


Curried Chicken Salad

Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

Smoked Turkey, Honey Mustard on Homemade Biscuits

Grilled Vegetable Wraps


Sweet Potato Tartlettes

Apple and Pear Cobbler with Whipped Cream

Spoonbread's Signature Double Chocolate Brownies


Teas, Ginger Beer 

Wines— Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot


The Life and Legacy of Otelia Cromwell


"The Life and Legacy of Otelia Cromwell" was part of the college's 25th annual celebration

honoring Smith’s first African American graduate.

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