History of Day of Absence and Day of Presence

The idea for the first Day of Absence came from a play of the same name by African American playwright, Douglas Turner Ward. Presented in 1965 as a “reverse minstrel show” (black actors in whiteface), the play is a social commentary on race relations in the U.S., and satirizes the South’s refusal to see African Americans as equal members of the community. In the play, a town wakes up to find all of its African American citizens have disappeared, leaving those left to reflect on the meaning of their community without these essential members.

The Day of Absence, as it was originally known, began in the 1970s when Faculty member Maxine Mimms, inspired by the play, approached administrator Stone Thomas about the idea of joining with other faculty and staff of color in spending a work day away from campus as a grassroots collective action. In the decades following, Day of Absence grew to become an opportunity for all students, faculty and staff at Evergreen to explore and celebrate the richness of our diversity by facilitating conversations about issues of difference. In 1992, Day of Presence was added in order to reunite the college community and honor diversity and unity as a whole campus.