The mission of the Snowden Multicultural Center is to educate the Kenyon community about diverse cultures through student-focused programs and to increase understanding and respect for people of diverse backgrounds and cultures.
Chris Kennerly, associate dean of students and director of diversity, equity and inclusion, directs the Snowden Multicultural Center. The Program Board, composed of students and members of the administration, faculty, staff and community, plans and implements events at the center. The Program Board is open to anyone in the community with a desire to participate.
The Snowden Multicultural Center serves as a resource and facility for multicultural programming, including celebrations, discussions, films, performances, lectures and special meals. The center contains a library with a diverse collection of books, videos, and other materials.
During the 1990-91 academic year, the Multicultural Affairs Advisory Council (MAAC) began discussing the possibility of establishing a Multicultural Center at Kenyon College. Through hard work and the commitment of many students, faculty, and staff, a proposal was submitted to the Senior Staff and Board of Trustees. The proposal was endorsed and a small committee began to lay the groundwork for the Center during the 1991-92 academic year. The grand opening of the Snowden Multicultural Center was on September 12, 1992.
The Center is named for a family of Knox County African-Americans that was famous as a performing musical band from the 1850s until the early 1920s. Thomas and Ellen Snowden, the first Black people in Knox County to be married, came to Ohio in the 1820s in the first wave of immigration to the western frontier.
Illiterate and former slaves, the couple became landowners and farmers in the community of Clinton, north of Mount Vernon. Their seven children attended school, became literate, and played in the family band. The only Snowdens to survive the twentieth century, brothers Benjamin and Lewis, gave concerts on fiddle and banjo from the second-story gable of the family home. Many Knox County residents, particularly African-Americans, believe that the Snowden family wrote the song "Dixie," although it is credited to Daniel Decatur Emmett (also of Mount Vernon). This belief about the Snowden's role in creating an icon of American culture is so strong that the common gravestone of Benjamin and Lewis is engraved, "They taught ‘Dixie’ to Dan Emmett."
The Snowdens faced many challenges of multicultural contact that continued to define the American experience. By naming this building the Snowden Multicultural Center, Kenyon College celebrates its historic link to Knox County, and commemorates a distinguished family's struggles and successes.