Spring 2011

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Campus Life
Black House
Hanging out at the Black House in the late 1970s. Seated on the couch, from left to right, Walter Bryant (C82), Carla Rush (C80) and Michael Butler (WCAS82). Seated on the ground, from left to right, an unidentified student, Renee Spann (WCAS79) and Patricia Mosley (J79, KSM81). Photograph by Lauren Jiles-Johnson (J79), courtesy of University Archives

Then: A Place of Their Own

Since the early 1970s the “Black House” has been a home away from home for thousands of African American students at Northwestern. The University created the space in fall 1968 as part of its agreement with students to end the Bursar’s Office takeover in April of that same year. In the “Facilities” section of the “Black Student Statement and Petition to Northwestern University Administrators, April 22, 1968,” students wrote: “We demand a Black Student Union, a place to be used for social and recreational activities. … Black students have nothing at Northwestern to call our own. We need a place where we will feel free to come and to go as we please.” The Black House became that place. “Many of us gathered in ‘the House’ as we called it to plan events and advertising campaigns, to seek guidance from the staff, to study and to network, socialize and hang out,” said Carla Rush (C80). “Suffice it to say, ‘the House’ was an important part of our Northwestern experience.” In 1972–73 the Department of African American Student Affairs, then known as Minority Student Affairs, moved from its original location at 619 Emerson St., to its current, larger home at 1914 Sheridan Road. It became a headquarters for African American students to congregate at a time when total black student enrollment surged to nearly 700, close to 10 percent of the undergraduate population. Today the Victorian-style house is home to AASA and serves as the social, cultural and educational hub for African American students on campus, with conference rooms, a television lounge and a computer lab. The current Black House Initiative, in partnership with the Northwestern Alumni Association’s young alumni program, aims to mobilize 1,000 African American alumni in a fundraising effort to refurbish the house and increase its role as a resource for the entire campus community. The initiative will support the creation of an additional computer lab with a printer, a redesign of the Black House library, furniture replacement, new carpet and painting the interior.