UWO African American Studies Program
The 21-credit AAS program was initiated in 1969, but the program’s start was contentious. It began as a direct response to the list of terms that an insistent group of 90+ African American students, and those who supported them, created. After feeling that what they saw as legitimate concerns were being ignored by the university’s administration, the students organized a protest that resulted in a take-over of the university head’s office in Dempsey. Known later as “Black Thursday,” the protesting students expressed their frustration with the sense of being left out socially, culturally, and academically, of the mainstream of UW Oshkosh life. Their list of demands included, among other things, courses across a wide variety of disciplines that incorporated scholarship about Africa and African Americans. They also wanted a place where they could hold student group meetings and other cultural gatherings. And so, the very popular and student-friendly Multicultural Education house on Algoma Blvd is one result of that list of requests. Establishing an African American Studies program was also requested. Related to that new academic resource, the students asked that more guest scholars, authors, and others who specialize in African American issues and cultural forms, be invited to campus for sharing current intellectual work for everyone’s education here. It was hard to argue with the logic of those demands, especially in 1969, when the country was inundated with other students and faculty also singing the same song of multicultural and multiracial inclusion in the academy. So, the AAS program was instituted at UW Oshkosh.
And yet, while there were faculty members who served along with their primary positions within their disciplinary departments as pro forma directors for the AAS program, for decades no director was hired specifically for making the African American Studies minor program a viable and active entity on campus. Instead, it languished in the course bulletin as if available, but in fact not very much so.
In 2004-2005, however, the program’s then-director, Dr. Roberta Maguire, worked with the then-dean in the College of Letters and Science to more formally activate the director’s position. There would be a person dedicated to reviving and maintaining the program to insure its viability. The search resulted in Dr. Norlisha F. Crawford being hired for the position in academic year 2005-2006.
Within the first year of the program’s revival, the first UW Oshkosh student earned the university’s first certificate in African American Studies. AAS Minor certificates have been awarded every spring since the first one. In other words, the program began serving immediately one of its main purposes: giving students the AAS minor as a viable study option. Another primary mandate envisioned for the AAS program was to help bring to campus scholarship of interest and importance about African Americans. So, 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 UWO community also have been encouraged by co-sponsored partnerships. AAS has had the privilege of working with the following campus entities:
- American Democracy Project
- Black Student Union
- Communication Department
- Compass Grant
- Earth Charter
- English Department
- Foreign Languages
- History Club
- History Department
- Journalism Department
- LBGTQ Resource Center
- Student Leadership & Involvement Center
- The Pepsi Reeve Programming Fund
- The University of Wisconsin System Institute on Race and Ethnicity
- The Women's Center
- University Honors Program
- Women's Studies