Beginnings: The Land
Sweet Briar is located on 2,840 acres of land at the foothills of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and is part of the ancestral homeland of the Native American People of the Monacan Nation as well as other indigenous nations.
Plantation Roots, Buried Stories
Indiana Fletcher Williams’ parents, Elijah and Marie Fletcher, operated a plantation called Sweetbrier from the 1830s to 1858, part of which became the campus as we know it today.
The Fletcher family enslaved more than 140 individuals, whose labor contributed to the success of the plantation. In the decades following the abolition of slavery, a predominantly black labor force helped to build Sweet Briar College’s magnificent buildings and environs. Between 1906 and 1960, more than 350 African Americans worked at Sweet Briar, and several dozen of them worked at the College for more than 30 years. Several Monacan families also worked on the farmland owned by the College, mimicking a tenant model of the postbellum era.
Recommended Reading: More about our History “Invisible Founders: How Two Centuries of African American Families Transformed a Plantation into a College,” by Lynn Rainville.
Building a Place Where Women Lead
Sweet Briar students built the traditions that have shaped generations of women. They built a place where women lead. They established a community where students were connected to the land, where students governed according to the Honor Code and where the commitment, embodied in the school song, rang true. They built a place where women, together, can do anything.
In the year that saw the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the College petitioned the state for the ability to admit African-American women. After several years of litigation, the school was integrated in September 1966.
Alumnae Save their Alma Mater
In 2015, when its administration attempted to close Sweet Briar, our alumnae took charge. They fought back in the courts and on social media. In keeping with Sweet Briar’s tradition of educating women to get things done, they delivered.
We advance the work of all those who have built Sweet Briar. Together, our campus community and our loyal alumnae work to forge a new, diverse group of students into ethical leaders with the skill, compassion and vision to create a more just and sustainable world.
We remain as we began, a special place with deep history, where women lead.
Celebrating Black History: Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp ’68 finds her FIERCE
If there’s a trail to blaze, Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp will find it. In 1966, the 17-year-old from South Carolina was the first African-American student to enroll at Sweet Briar College.read more