About the Program
The 21-credit African American Studies program (AASP) was initiated in 1969, but the program’s start was contentious. It began as a direct response to the resolutions submitted by a group of 90 African American students and those faculty, staff and students who supported them. Responding to the current state of affairs ignored by the university’s administration, the students assembled and walked to the university head’s office in Dempsey.
Known later as “Black Thursday,” UW Oshkosh students initiated a march that became famous across the United States. The students expressed their frustration with being left out socially and culturally in campus affairs and the need for diversity in course materials across disciplines.
Their list of demands included:
- establishing a list of required courses that became the basis for the African American Studies minor;
- reserving a place where students of color could hold group meetings and other cultural gatherings—the Multicultural Education Center on Algoma Boulevard was established as the result;
- inviting to campus more guest scholars, authors and artists who specialize in African American issues and cultural forms;
- locating courses across a wide variety of disciplines that incorporate scholarship about Africans and African Americans.
It was hard to argue with the logic of those demands, especially in 1969, when the country was starting to fully address multicultural and multiracial issues in many aspects of daily life. At UW Oshkosh, despite the fact that there were faculty interested in establishing an AASP, for decades no permanent director was hired specifically for making the African American Studies minor program a viable and active entity on campus. However, in 2005, after a nation-wide search, Dr. Norlisha Crawford was hired to direct the program.
AASP Grows and Expands
In 2007, Courtney Butts became the first UWO student to earn a minor in African American Studies. The program has had students completing the minor every spring since that year.
Another primary mandate envisioned for the AASP was to help bring to campus scholarship of interest and importance about African Americans and other groups in the African diaspora. In 2005-2006, the Annual African American Studies Spring Lecture series was launched. In 2007-2008, the Annual African American Studies Fall Lecture series was instituted. Guest lectures and events related to bringing an increased African American intellectual and cultural presence to the UW Oshkosh community also have been encouraged by co-sponsored partnerships.