Marva E. Dates, class of 1957 and Karen E. Dates, class of 1986


In this interview recorded as a result of the 2018 Black Alumni Reunion, Marva E. Dates, Pembroke College class of 1957, and her niece Karen E. Dates, Brown University class of 1986, share the similarities and differences of their times on campus.

Marva begins the interview by describing her life in Baltimore before Pembroke. She recalls the strict racial segregation of the city and schools as well as the lack of guidance for students interested in college. She goes on to say that there were very few students of color at Pembroke during her tenure there and that she did not intentionally seek any of them out to pursue Black friendships. She also fondly remembers living on campus and says that generally she felt welcomed by the students and staff.

Karen enters the conversation, explaining that Brown was already within her sights given that she had alumnae in her family. Unlike her aunt, both of Karen’s parents attended college and therefore continuing her education was expected. She recalls Third World Transition Week and being a member of the historically Black Delta Sigma Theta sorority.

Both interviewees share their best memories of Brown, which include their first arrival and student activities, as well as more challenging recollections such as the rigorous course work and yet lack of academic advising. They also discuss dating on campus and posture pictures. In terms of life after Pembroke and Brown, Marva explains getting her Master’s in Library and Information Science from Simmons College and working at the Boston Public Library and the Pratt Institute Library in Brooklyn, New York. Karen notes her graduate education in journalism from Columbia University and her work in youth development and education with the Maryland State Department of Education.

Karen concludes the interview by describing her time at the Black Alumni Reunion and both interviewees briefly discuss their involvement in the Women’s Movement and Civil Rights Movement on campus.


Recorded on October 27, 2018 via FaceTime
Interviewed by Mary Murphy, Nancy L. Buc ’65 LLD‘94 hon Pembroke Center Archivist

Suggested Chicago style citation: Dates, Marva E. and Dates, Karen E.. Interview. By Mary Murphy. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. October 27, 2018.


Marva E. Dates was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. She attended Booker T. Washington School and was a 1953 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School. She achieved a top academic record at Douglass and her high school principal, Dr. Ralph Reckling, encouraged her to apply to Pembroke College, the women’s college in Brown University, where she was accepted in 1953. She lived on campus while she pursued her American Civilization concentration. Marva graduated with her AB in 1957 and went on to earn her Master’s in Library and Information Science from Simmons College. She also received an advanced certificate in library administration from the University of Maryland. She held several positions and retired as head of the Social Science and History Department at the Pratt Institute central library. After her retirement from the Pratt, she commuted daily to the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. She researched the enslaved people and Native Americans of Northumberland County, Virginia, where her mother lived. She married a fellow Pratt librarian, Steve Belt and they were active in Baltimore’s civil rights movement. Twenty-five years after she graduated from Pembroke, her niece, Karen E. Dates, entered Brown University.

Karen also grew up in Baltimore to parents who were college graduates and college educators. Of course, she was well aware of Brown and decided to pursue her college education there, just like her aunt. After taking a variety of courses, she concentrated in political science while also participating in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She received her AB in 1986 and went on to earn a graduate degree in journalism from Columbia University. She currently works in youth development and education with the Maryland State Department of Education. Both alumnae continue to reside in Baltimore.

Just over one month after donating her oral history, Marva passed away on December 9, 2018, at the age of 82.