African American Studies Begins at Ohio University
An Undergraduate Program, the First Black Tenured Professor, and Eventually a Department
History of African American Studies
The Black Studies Institute: On Dec. 1, 1968, a group presented then Ohio University President Vernon Alden with a list of six demands. One of those demands was for a Black “curriculum with full University accreditation, which would be created, administered, and directed by black professors and students.” Today’s African American Studies Department at Ohio University is descended from the Black Studies Institute, originally established in 1969 as a result of the efforts of those Black students and faculty.
Additional Demands: Their other five demands included: a Black residence hall, unrestricted admission of Black freshmen with financial aid granted as needed, a Black scholarship and recruitment program, a Black resource and service center, and the establishment of a Black student growth fund begun with the $35 Black students were paying quarterly into the general student fund. These were addressed through mediated negotiations over the following months and years.
An Executive Dean of Afro-American Affairs: On April 25, 1969, Ohio University announced its approval of the new Black Studies Institute along with the promise to hire an executive dean of Afro-American Affairs and to secure $250,000 in funding with classes set to begin that fall. Indeed, the efforts of Ohio University’s Black students and faculty resulted in an undergraduate program, which today describes itself as “an interdisciplinary academic enterprise focused on the rigorous study of the life, history and culture of people of African descent.” Harry Morgan appears to have served as the first dean, beginning in 1970. He left Ohio University in 1972 and went on to a notable career in early childhood education at Syracuse University and then at the University of West Georgia.
Departmental Status: Back at Ohio University, the Black Studies Institute graduated its first undergraduate, Curtis Richardson, in 1971. The center was subsequently renamed the African American Studies Institute and later, department. The African American Studies Department today remains one of a few such programs with departmental status in the state of Ohio.
First Tenured Black Professor: In 1977 Francine Cheryl Childs became the first tenured Black Professor at OHIO. Childs joined the faculty in 1974 as an Associate Professor of Black Studies in the new Afro American Studies program. She was named Peace Corps Black Educator of the Year in 1989 and received the Presidential Award for outstanding scholarship and service to the African global community and contributions to the promotion and development of Black Studies in 1992.
A Legacy: Today, the Ohio University Francine Childs Diversity Leadership Award is named in her honor.