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OU Libraries Timeline: African Americans

1965: Diversity and Inclusiveness Leadership: Dr. Manuel H. Pierson


A founding father of OU diversity efforts, Dr. Manuel H. Pierson begins a 28 year mission to promote diversity and equal opportunity for students, staff, and faculty.

Dr. Pierson held several challenging administrative positions at OU. During his tenures as Associate Dean of Students and Director of Special Projects; Associate Dean of Student Services, and Assistant Vice President, Dr. Pierson led many diversity and equal opportunity initiatives, including Upward Bound and Project 20.

Dr. Pierson dies February 13, 2006. The University holds a memorial on March 16th. His colleagues and friends recalls his achievements during the 14th Annual Keeper of the Dream Banquet at OU. Dr Pierson's pioneering spirits lives on in Oakland's continuing mission of diversity and inclusiveness.

Image: OU Kresge Library Archives


1967: Project 20

diversityproject_011In an effort to create a more ethnically diverse student population, OU admits 20 African American high school graduates under the Project 20 initiative. Funded by local businesses, Project 20 "aim[s] at dis-advantaged teen-agers whose high school grades [are] too low to admit them to college. Instead of past achievement they [are] selected on the basis of their potential and motivation". In June 1971, twelve Project 20 students graduate from OU (1).

1. The Sunday News-Detroit, June 13, 1971 p. 22A


1971: Black Liberation Caucus

Atlanta Blackstar Photo  of Black Panther Party In January, the Black Liberation Caucus is founded. According to the March 15, 1971 edition of OU, an official university newsletter, BLC replaces the Association of Black Students, as the "formal" organization for OU African American students. The article notes that BLC views itself as a political organization linked with a world-wide liberation movement". In its general policy statement, BLC offers the following political stance:

The Black Liberation Caucus is dedicated to the liberation of black people and is guided by the principles of black revolutionary nationalism and pan-Africanism. We are committed to a struggle against racism, capitalism, and imperialism both in the U.S. and internationally, especially on the African continent.

According to a James D. Graham essay, "The Revolution Was Not Televised: Perspectives from the Banks of Beer Lake, 1969-1975," by 1974 BLC morphed into the "more inclusive" student organization: Association of Black Students. However, Kresge Library archive documents (an October 23, 1969 article about ABS information day event for prospective students and a photo of the ABS from the 1969 OU yearbook ascendent 69) indicate that ABS had been in existence since 1969. Most likely ABS regained its position as the official voice of OU African American students during this period.

Image: Altanta Blackstar "9 Black Liberation Movements Subverted by Racist Governments" November 29, 2013


1974: Afro-American Studies Program

OU starts the Afro-American Studies Program, a concentration to "help students see the history, life, and culture of Afro-Americans from the perspectives of several different academic disciplines . In the memo below, Professor De Witt S. Sykes explains that program, which requires 28 credits, is suitable to a wide range of students. Afro-Americans Studies (later combined with African Studies Program and renamed African and African American Studies) is currently a minor concentration in the International Studies ProgramMemo: Afro American Studies Program.

Image: OU Kresge Library Archives


1974: Black Alumni Association

The OU Black Alumni Association is established in June.


1981: Black Profiles Booklet

OU Black Faculty and Staff BookletDean of Students, Manuel H. Pierson, approves the production of "Oakland University Black Profiles," a booklet of OU African American student leaders, faculty, and staff. Distributed on October 27, 1981, this publication was compiled to facilitate solidarity and academic success within the OU African American student population.

Image: OU Kresge Library Archives


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Photos courtesy of the Oakland University Archives.

Created by Name / Updated on February 18, 2014 by Name

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