In 1883, Northwestern University’s first Black student graduated. In 1917, Northwestern established its Black fraternity. In 1972, the administration created the department of African American Studies. According to Associate Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Jabbar Bennett, an on-campus group called the Quibblers Club celebrated “Negro History Week” as early as 1945.
Now, we have Black History Month, which Northwestern celebrated this year with a series of events coordinated by Heather Browning, one of the assistant directors in the Multicultural Student Affairs office. She specializes in the African diaspora, or Black and African-American communities. She said the activities fall into one of three categories: celebration, education and awareness.
While she didn’t want to speak for all students of color, Browning said, “Students of color on campus have very different experiences than their white counterparts. They don’t always necessarily feel safe on campus for different reasons. They are sometimes the only ones in their classes.” She added that the Multicultural Student Affairs office exists to make sure these students have support.
She said that some of the events focused on creating conversations based on events that occur both on campus and across the U.S., including events that occurred at the University of Missouri and the solidarity movement here last fall.
Browning specifically highlighted two events. One was Harambee, an annual cultural celebration that shows off different aspects of the African diaspora including food and music that was put on in collaboration with For Members Only, a Black student group. The other was a discussion of Black student athletes' experience on campus.
She said this event was based on “athletes wanting to have a space to talk about their experiences.”
A full list of the activities that took place to celebrate Black History Month can be found on the Multicultural Student Affairs website.