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Quandra Prettyman papers

Identifier: BC20-58

Collection Scope and Content Summary

This collection holds a variety of materials (from pre-U.S. integration to 2019) which depict a small representation of Quandra’s work as a professor and passionate scholar. Syllabi and course packets stand as a majority of the materials, but the collection also holds several examples of her activities outside of her intricately-crafted lessons.

Series 1 contains course syllabi--inclusive of assignment sheets, worksheets, and reading lists. The teaching materials continue with lecture notes (consisting of drafts and handwritten notes), and submitted student assignments.

Series 2 contains work written and published by students at Barnard and Columbia as well as programs and flyers from events held by collegiate organizations. The student publications include Black Aegis, Afro-American Society, Chicano Caucus, and Student Forum. There are also works from the 1981 Program in the Arts as well as the 2019 Senior Creative Writing class. Organization events were held by the Middle Passage Initiative, Alumnae of Color, Asian Students Association, Chinese Students Club, Korean Students Association, Barnard Organization of Black Women, The Barnard Women’s Center, and The New World Theatre Company.

Series 3 expands to Quandra’s non-teaching activities and correspondences. These include letters from students, Barnard Essay Contest materials (emails, speech drafts, publications, and results), minutes and agendas from organizational meetings, content made for and about Barnard alumnae, a letter regarding Columbia’s 1972 stance on affirmative action, gatherings surrounding the 1982 Conference on Sexuality, and a collage Quandra created of her fellow English Department members.

Series 4 contains printed media that Quandra collected for her personal interests, specifically in the areas of NYC's Black theatre community and materials surrounding African politics and literature. These folders consist of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and printed literary works.


  • Creation: 1958-2019, undated


This collection has no restrictions.

Publication Rights

Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Barnard Archives and Special Collections. The Barnard Archives and Special Collections approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Reproduction Restrictions

Reproductions can be made for research purposes.


Quandra Prettyman was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She attended Antioch College (1950-1954) and the University of Michigan (1955-1957) before moving to New York City, where she would eventually start as a professor at Barnard College in 1970.

As a Barnard professor, she developed a multitude of courses. Her classes on Black literature were some of the first of their kind not only at the college, but in the United States. A few of these courses include: “Harlem Renaissance,” “Early African American Literature, 1760-1890,” “Minority Women Writers in the United States,” and “Slavery– The Woman’s Experience.” She taught generations of students and was also a writer herself, with her work appearing in anthologies such as The Poetry of Black America by Arnold Adoff. Her interests also extended to food studies; she maintained a large collection of cookbooks in her home.

Her involvement expanded beyond the classroom, as she participated in several organizations and committees within the university. Notably, she started the Barnard Essay Contest (1991-2003), served as a planning committee member for the 1982 Barnard Conference on Sexuality, and took part in events and the life of the Barnard College Women’s Center, later the Barnard Center for Research on Women.

Prettyman continued teaching at Barnard until her death in 2021. She taught post her official retirement, offering the course “Explorations of Black Literature: 1760-1890.”


3 Linear Feet (3 document boxes, 1 flat file)




“This is a working syllabus, not a strait jacket.”

Quandra Prettyman was a professor and writer who pioneered Black literary courses in the United States. Described as a “Champion of Black Women’s Literature,” she made waves as Barnard’s first full-time Black faculty member. Her commitment to disseminating knowledge about Black literature and the advancement of students’ academic abilities and ventures is highlighted throughout the materials present in this collection. She began her Barnard career in 1970, and continued teaching for the next five decades. This collection includes a record of Quandra’s efforts and achievements in creating her courses, as well as her participation in a variety of organizations, and service to her community. It consists of her professional, academic, and personal papers.

Collection Arrangement

In its initial form, this collection had no specific arrangement. Papers were delegated to binders and folders with and without labels. Documents in like categories were kept together, with additional items and groupings added by the archivist. All materials were rehoused and organized by content and date. The collection is organized into four series:

Series 1, Teaching Materials

Series 2, Barnard/Columbia Organizations

Series 3, Projects and Communication Outside of Teaching: Professional and Personal

Series 4, Collected Newspaper Clippings and Printed Media

Physical Location

This collection is located in the Barnard Archives and Special Collections, Barnard Library. To use this collection, please contact the Barnard Archives and Special Collections at 212.854.4079 or

Acquisition Information

Donated by Johanna Stadler, daughter of Quandra Prettyman, 2022-2023.


Materials removed entirely: Duplicates of course materials, out of scope content, materials currently represented in other Barnard collections, printed versions of published media

Materials moved to other collections: student publications moved to BC12.2 and BC12.38, english department materials moved to BC13.18, syllabus moved to BC34, and dining information moved to BC05.28, essay contest ceremony programs moved to BC36.2


Accruals are expected.

Related Materials

The Barnard Archives also holds several related collections, including:

BCRW collection

Dining Services

English Department

Essay Contest collection

Student publications - record group

Processing History

This collection was processed and the finding aid written by Adia Augustin in 2023.

Descriptive Rules Used: Finding aid adheres to that prescribed by Describing Archives: A Content Standard.

Finding aid written in English.

  • Women’s Center Booklet, Access Barnard College Part 2: Office for Disabled Students, The Women’s center Reid Lectureship: November 11,1975 papers by Alice Walker and June Jordan, Francine du Plessix Gray’s speech at Barnard’s 89th commencement, Columbia Spectator issue, duplicate The Proxy issues, duplicates of teaching materials, letter of recommendation, 40 Year Later: Now Can We Talk? DVD, issue of Columbia Spectator, class registration, duplicates of essay contest ceremony programs
Guide to the Quandra Prettyman Papers
Adia Augustin
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Barnard Archives and Special Collections Repository

3009 Broadway
New York NY 10027 United States