Folklore has it that the first Black student was unknowingly admitted to Swarthmore sometime before 1913, as recollected in Charles Darling's Memoirs. A very fair skinned male was alerted that an error had been made pertaining to his admittance to the college, upon his arrival on the campus. A similar incident occurred in 1932, as reported by Everett Lee Hunt in The Revolt of the College Intellectual. A Black student was denied admittance to Swarthmore, despite his excellent academic achievements, and was instead awarded a four year scholarship to Dartmouth College by Swarthmore; the Board of Managers felt the political timing of admitting a Black to the college was off, and this this young man would be more appropriately place at a man's college. In 1940, a Swarthmore student committee formed a Race Relations group which urged the school to admit Blacks. This group also made attempts to bring several Black cultural exhibits to the campus as a means of introducing many of the students to Black people and culture. Swarthmore finally passed a resolution in 1942, which changed the admissions policy opening admission to students regardless of race, color, or creed.
The first Black matriculants appeared at the college in 1943, and in 1947
Swarthmore had its first Black graduate. The number of Black matriculants at
the college was relatively small from 1950 to 1963, with respect to the entire
student body: the number of Blacks per class averaged somewhere around two.
The next three years showed a significant increase in Black enrollment, followed
by a sharp decline in the proceeding three years. It was the decline in Black
enrollment and a report by the Admissions Policy Committee which stated that
the number of qualified Blacks in the applicant pool had remained constant,
despite the increased demand for Black students, that prompted an eight day
sit-in by Black students in the Admissions Office in 1969. The students quiet
departure from the Admissions Office on the day of president Courtney Smith's
untimely death was not without resolve. The newly formed student group S.A.S.S.
(then, Swarthmore African-American Student Society), the Admissions Policy Committee,
concerned faculty, and the administration agreed that the following issues would
be addressed promptly: an increased effort to recruit Black students and faculty;
more involvement in college preparatory programs for Black students, continuation
of Upward Bound and the commencement of A Better Chance (ABC); a greater sensitivity
toward the unique need for activities geared toward Blacks; and a Black counselor.