Darrien Davis

African Americans have a rich history in both the U.S. and right here at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

Since the famous “Black Thursday” protest in 1968, African American students have gradually been able to develop a voice on the UW Oshkosh campus. The protest spurred the creation of an Afro-American society on campus and eventually led to the development of the African American Studies (AAS) minor in 1983.

On Nov. 21, 1968, or “Black Thursday” nearly 100 African American students demonstrated their frustration with the lack of diversity on campus by filing into the then-University president’s office and presenting a list of demands for reforming the school’s discriminatory practices and policies. The protest quickly got out of hand, and in a moment of anger and confusion, several of the students started vandalizing the president’s office. Although what actually happened has been disputed for decades, most of the students were expelled after an investigation was conducted.

The demonstration did however spark additional protests, by white and black students on both the Oshkosh and Madison campuses. These protests, along with the growing civil rights movement in America, pressured the university to improve conditions for black students at UW Oshkosh.

The semester following the Black Thursday, a group of professors formed a committee that would eventually create guidelines for starting the AAS program.

Today, the program has developed into a 21 credit minor with three required courses. The remaining 12 credits are quite flexible, offering opportunities in several fields. Some courses can even be customized to fit the content requirement of the minor if approved by the corresponding professor and the AAS director.

“The thing I like most about the AAS program is the appreciation the department shows for the African American culture,” AAS student Darrien Davis said. “Through the works we read, discuss and talk about I can tell that no one in the department is just there to be there, but rather, they have a purpose”

The program’s current director, Norlisha Crawford, said that because African Americans have contributed to virtually every academic subject, the AAS minor appeals to a broad range of students.

“The African American Studies minor is a smart and easy complement for any major,” Crawford said. “ It adds to one’s value on the job market and to one’s knowledge as a college-educated person.”

“Some students should look at the AAS program as a learning experience, more of them should look at it as a reality check,” Davis said. “There are many things that students can and will learn that they never knew, some of them will be in denial of what they are learning. No matter the reaction, this program teaches things that need to be learned.”

Crawford said that the deepened knowledge of United States history as it relates to African Americans can give students a better understanding of the different cultures that exist here at UW Oshkosh and beyond.

“In this highly competitive world, with a job market that can draw applicants from anywhere in the world, UWO graduates must be prepared for knowing more than simply what is taught by studying in their major courses,” Crawford said.

Students interested in the minor should speak to their adviser and are encouraged to visit Crawford in her office in Sage 3465 with any questions.

Written by Jake Batterman, Integrated Marketing and Communications STEP student.