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Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Department of African American Student Affairs


The history of the Department of African American Student Affairs (AASA) at Northwestern University dates back to the mid-1960s.  A Black Student wrote a letter to the Northwestern Daily protesting the low enrollment of African-American students in the University. In response, 54 Black freshmen enrolled in the University for the fall of 1966.   The University used funding from the Wieboldt Foundation and support from the Higher Education Act of 1965, to institute a program called the Summer Academic Workshop (SAW) to encourage African American student enrollment and familiarize the new students with college life. 

Concern about African-American student enrollment at Northwestern University prompted a decision to recruit in Black urban areas, mostly in Chicago.  By 1973, the number of Black students rose significantly and represented approximately 10% of the undergraduate population.  Despite increased success recruiting African-American students, Northwestern University remained unaware of the challenges and consequences of integrating black students into the University’s social structure.  The curriculum and social life on campus failed to recognize the different perspectives or the social and cultural needs of the new black student population. 

The shocking assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April of 1968, led to a strong will for change.  In May of 1968, 110 of 120 black students on campus took over the Bursar’s Office, and presented Northwestern with a list of demands.  An agreement was reached and Northwestern increased the number of admissions to reflect the percentage of African Americans in the national population, introduced Black studies courses into the curriculum, and a created a headquarters for Black students to congregate and engage in their own social, political, and cultural activities under the administration of the Vice President for Student Affairs.

The facility the students won was popularly known as the House.  The first location of the House was at 619 Emerson, and in 1972-73, it was moved to larger quarters at 1914 Sheridan Road. The office located in the House was first named Minority Student Affairs, and had one professional staff member.  The name was changed to the Department of African American Student Affairs (AASA) in 1973.

The mission of the AASA is to support the completion of undergraduate academic programs by African Americans and Black students, and foster a positive sense of community at Northwestern University.

The Department of African American Student Affairs (AASA) has overseen the operations of many organizations on campus, including For Members Only (FMO), Black Greek organizations, the Northwestern Community Ensemble, Black Athletes Uniting for the Light (BAUL) and Northwestern University Black Alumni Association.  AASA also administered University programs including the Summer Academic Workshop.  Popular events during this time included Black History/Liberation Month, A Musical Evening with Our Elders, Brown Bag Lunches, and the Christmas Bazaar.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Records of the Department of African-American Student Affairs

Identifier: 30/15
Abstract The Records of the Department of African American Student Affairs (AASA), filling three boxes and spanning the years 1966 to 2001, contain valuable information on the development of the Black community at Northwestern University. The bulk of the records consist of historical information and materials relating to organizations, programs, and events under the sponsorship of the office.The Historical Records of the Office of African American Student Affairs (AASA) date from ca. 1968...
Dates: 1966-2001