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"Friendship and Sisterhood": The History and Impact of Wilson's Black Student Union

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The first African-American student to graduate from Wilson College was matriculated the same year as the 1954 Brown vs. the Board of Education decision. (Two students attended before Doris Oswell Brunot graduated in 1958.) Since then, African-American students have danced, sung, played sports, and served in student organizations. In short, they have enriched the life of the College. This exhibit contains numerous primary source materials from the Hankey Center regarding Wilson College's Black Student Union (BSU). These photographs, articles, and more demonstrate the presence and importance of the organization, highlighting how the BSU has, for nearly fifty years, been and continues to be a propelling force for positivity and community on Wilson’s campus. Through the years, the goals of the BSU were changed by the political movements of the time. Though its tactics and name have changed over its near fifty year tenure at Wilson, the Black Student Union has been a constant beacon, seeking to educate, engage, and rally the Wilson College community. 

In 1968, the Wilson College Afro-American Society (WAAS) was recognized as a student organization. In the spring of 1969, the WAAS called the attention of the administration and faculty to issues its members thought needed to be addressed in a timely fashion. Some of these issues were: improving polices on admission and recruitment of minority students; the need to recruit and hire more African-American faculty and staff at all levels; and the addition of courses relevant to the history and experience of African-Americans. To bring even greater attention to its ten proposals, the organization staged a boycott of classes on April 28, 1969. The 1969-1970 Bluebook noted that its members “encouraged greater discussion and thought of the problems and goals of Black culture and recommended solutions benefitting the college community.” WAAS also sponsored college-wide cultural events such as Black Weekend (1972) and Afram 1980. Its successor student organization is the current Black Student Union (BSU). The current BSU's purpose is to "encourage African-American awareness, enhance the quality of life for members of the Black Student Union, conduct activities involving community outreach, and foster greater understanding of African-American culture and related issues."

This exhibit contains numerous primary source materials from the Hankey Center regarding Wilson College's Black Student Union. Double click on thumbnails to view full documents and descriptions. 

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