Skip to main content

Black Experience at Northwestern University Oral Histories

Identifier: 31/6/234

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

Collection contains oral histories pertaining to the Black Experience at Northwestern University, and is divided into three separate projects.

The Takeover Documentary Oral History Project is a collection of interviews conducted by Eric D. Seals (Director), Brittany Applegate (Producer), and Donnie Seals Jr. (Writer/Editor) from Digifé, a video production company based in Chicago. These interviews were conducted to create the documentary film, The Takeover, which delves into the history of the Bursar’s Office Takeover, a student protest that occurred in 1968. Northwestern University and the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association (NUBAA) produced the film to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the student protest in 2018. The documentary features interview with several student activists, alums, staff, and administrators from Northwestern. The interviews are treated as oral histories to provide researchers with additional information that was not included in the film. Topics covered include alums’ decision to attend Northwestern, student life at Northwestern, memories of the protest and its aftermath, career paths, and the perspectives of staff and administrators on the event, as well as the current state of the campus.

The Northwestern Community Ensemble (NCE) Oral History Project comprises of interviews conducted by Charla Wilson in celebration of NCE’s 50th anniversary in 2021. NCE was established in 1971 by a group of Black students with the aim of creating a spiritual community where Black students in a predominately white university could participate in Black cultural traditions through sacred music. The music ministry still has a strong presence on the Northwestern University campus and in the greater Chicago area. The project’s narrators include founders, early leaders, and choir members who discussed various topics such as their decision to attend Northwestern, their student experiences, the origins of NCE, the choir’s relationship with nearby Black churches, rehearsals, tours, choir robes, traditions, and reflections on the choir’s 50-year history leading up to the anniversary program and concert. Additionally, the interviews offer a perspective on how Black student life at Northwestern evolved following the Bursar’s Office Takeover.

The Black (Student) Experiences at Northwestern University Oral History Project features interviews with Black students, staff, and faculty at Northwestern. It includes interviews with activists who took part in the Bursar’s Office Takeover. These interviews are distinct from the documentary film project, and some serve as follow-up discussions to explore additional aspects of their student or faculty experiences, and careers after graduation.

The interviews with Ferdinand Ofodile, Fola Soremekun, Joseph Okpaku, and Njoki Kamau were part of a collaborative project with Florence Mugambi, African Studies Librarian from the Herskovits Library of African Studies, Charla Wilson, Archivist for the Black Experience, and Malik Pitchford and Callie Smith, Black Metropolis Research Consortium (BMRC) Archie Motely interns. In 2021, they interviewed the four alums to document student experiences of African international students who attended Northwestern from the 1960s to 1970s. Some of the alums were part of recruitment programs including the African Scholarship Program of American Universities (ASPAU). During the 1960s, Northwestern, like many other universities, recruited Black students domestically and internationally in response to the Civil Rights Movement and the independence of many African nations. The project also includes interviews with Northwestern staff who played crucial roles in supporting Black staff and students. These include those who diversified the undergraduate student body in the 1970s, organized the first Juneteenth celebration at Northwestern in the 1990s, and established an organization for Black staff in 2016.


  • 2017 - 2024

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is available for use. Recordings and transcripts are available via the library's Digital Collections site at


120 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



Collection contains oral histories pertaining to the Black Experience at Northwestern University, and is divided into three separate projects: The Takeover Documentary Oral History Project, The Northwestern Community Ensemble (NCE) Oral History Project, and The Black (Student) Experiences at Northwestern University Oral History Project.


Arranged alphabetically by interviewee name within each series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Compiled by Charla Wilson, 2020-2024.

Guide to the Black Experience at Northwestern University Oral Histories
Benn Joseph
January 2024
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Library Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US