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Diversity at OU

 

African-Americans

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

diversityproject_045pierson_collage

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. During his tenures as Associate Dean of Students and Director of Special Projects, Associate Dean of Student Services, and Assistant Vice President, Dr. Pierson leads many diversity and equal opportunity initiatives, including Upward Bound and Project 20.

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



Image: Oakland University Archives

 

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1965: First OU African American graduate

Isaac Jones is the first African American  graduate at OU. He received a BA in Sociology. In 1968, Jones is fatally shot. OU creates a scholarship in his name (see Chancellor Varner's speech for dignity and justice for all and 1968 Isaac Jones Memorial Scholarship entry below).    Image:  Photo of Isaac Jones portrait in Oakland Center. Photographer: Johnnie R. Blunt

 

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1965: Pontiac-Oakland Education Assistant Team

Students create POEAT - the Pontiac-Oakland Education Assistant Team - , a project to pair volunteer students with Pontiac school children. 4th, 5th and 6th grade students from Pontiac schools are brought to campus for days of cultural and recreational activities.

 

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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 disadvantaged teenagers 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 Image: Oakland University Archives

 

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1968: Association of Black Students

abs_collageAccording to a historical survey of Oakland University student organizations from 1959 to 1980, the Association of Black Students was founded in summer 1968 (1). From 1971 to 1973, the organization was renamed Black Liberation Caucus (See 1971 entry for Black Liberation Caucus). Above left: ABS members celebrate Black History Month. Above Right: copy of 1968 petition for recognition as a student organization, signed by initial faculty advisor--Manuel H. Pierson.   1. Waddell, H. (1980). Student Organizations at Oakland University 1959-1980. p.57. Image: Oakland University Archives

 

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1968: Isaac Jones Memorial Scholarship

Isaac Jones Scholarship NoticeShortly after the February 3rd murder of Isaac Jones, OU's first African American graduate, the University establishes the Isaac Jones Memorial Scholarship fund.  The  financial aid gift is awarded to promising African American high school graduates from Pontiac, Michigan. Pontiac Central High graduate Cecilia E. Brown (picture above) is the first recipient.

Image: Oakland University Archivess

 

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1968: Urban Affairs Center

The Urban Affairs Center is established, directed by a new assistant chancellor for urban affairs.

 

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1969: First OU African-American Celebration Month

OU African American celebration month news clipsIn February 1926, Carter G. Woodson initiates Negro History Week--a recognition of African-Americans' historical contributions (1). By February 1969, Oakland University extends this event to a month-long celebration, seven years before the United States Federal government officially recognizes Black History/ African American Celebration Month (2). 1. Source: Library of Congress, African American History Month: About 2. "OU Sets Events on Black History," news clip from The Eccentric, 13 February 1969 Image: Oakland University Archives  

 

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1970: Black students enrollment

The University Senate votes to increase black enrollment to 15% of the freshman class.
Source: Minutes of the Meeting of the University Senate, May 13, 1970

 

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1971: Black Liberation Caucus

diversityproject_018In 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,"(1) by 1974 BLC morphed into the "more inclusive" student organization: the Association of Black Students. However, a petition for recognition as a student organization indicates that ABS existed since early 1968. (See 1968 entry for Association of Black Students).

(1) OU Journal, Issue No. 7, Fall 2004

Image: Oakland University Archives

 

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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. Dykes explains that the 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: Oakland University Archives

 

1974: Black Alumni Association

The OU Black Alumni Association is established in June.

 

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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: Oakland University Archives

 

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1990: Mission: Unity

Picture of OU students of various genders and ethnicitiesMission: Unity, consisting of students, staff, faculty, and alumni, is formed to facilitate cross-cultural discussions about race.  Marc Allen Payne, a senior, is its founding president. The organization is later renamed Cross-roads. (11 July 1990 Board of Trustees minutes).

Image: Oakland University Archives

 

1992: Origins of the Center for Multicultural Initiatives

Oakland U. protestors want minority postApproximately 150  African-American students conduct a sit-in at President Sandra Packard's office, in protest of lack of an office for minority affairs. This action results in the creation of  an Office for Minority Equity a year later.  Glenn McIntosh is appointed Director In January  1994 (OU Senate Minutes, January 13, 1994). OME is later renamed the  Center for Multicultural Initiatives.

Image: Oakland University Archives

 

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Photos courtesy of the Oakland University Archives.

 

Project credits: original research by Johnnie Blunt; updates by Dominique Daniel and Cheyanne Kramer

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