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February 28, 2011

African-American Society

One of CWRU’s oldest recognized student cultural organizations, the African American Society was formed in 1968 as the Afro-American Society.

One of its earliest and most far-reaching actions was a series of demands presented to President Morse in December 1968. The group advocated for increased numbers of Black students, faculty, administrators; courses in African-American culture; greater university initiatives in the local Black community (e.g., Black History Week programs); an evening college prep program for Black students; recognizing the birthdays of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X as official university holidays; and acquiring additional library materials by and about Blacks.

The organization published a newsletter (copies from 1969-1974 are in the Archives) and sponsored lectures, films, and social events, including dances and cultural dinners. Beginning in 1969, the Afro-American Society co-sponsored Black Pre-Freshman Week activities such as tours, classes, performances, and dinners.

One of the group’s early leaders was Stephanie Tubbs, president in 1970/71. In spring 1971 the Afro-American Society proposed the university establish an Afro-American Studies House, so that “...academic and cultural pursuit of the ‘Black Experience’ may continue in discussions, seminars, workshops, etc. after the normal academic day is over...” It was to be “open for occupancy to all without regard to race, color, creed, religion or previous condition of ignorance or misunderstanding as long as all occupants of the dorm demonstrate interest in these specialized fields of interest and study.” [1] In 1972 the Afro-American Cultural Living Center was established at Sherman House.

For more than 40 years the African-American Society has helped CWRU become a more inclusive community.

[1. 4SI6 1:4 Michael W. Francis, Proposal for an Afro-American Studies House, 4/23/1971]

Other African American History Month recollections include John Sykes Fayette and CWRU's Afro-American Studies Program

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February 17, 2011

John Sykes Fayette

CWRU’s earliest documented African-American student was John Sykes Fayette. Having prepped at Western Reserve Academy, Fayette entered Western Reserve College in 1832 when the college was a mere 6 years old. He graduated in 1836 with the A.B. degree and was a theological student for the 1836/37 academic year.

Born in 1810, Fayette arrived in Hudson with a letter of introduction from his pastor, James H. Cox, of the Leight Street Presbyterian Church in New York.
“To the Rev. President Storrs, of Hudson College, Ohio; & others, to whom this document may come:

“The bearer, Mr. John Fayette, being about to remove for a time to your neighborhood & collegiate care, I recommend him to your esteem & Christian confidence, as a regular & worthy member of the church of my pastoral care; a young man (of colour) whose principles appear fixed & sound; a candidate for the Christian ministry, of good & hopeful promise; & a scholar of respectable attainments and behaviour.

“He has the best wishes of Christians who know him, for his prosperity in all things. May the guidance & grace of God be with him in the way of his pilgrimage to the end, & make him useful in his own blessed cause!”[1]

All students entering Western Reserve College in 1832 pursued the same curriculum: Greek, Latin, Mathematics, History, Philosophy, Chemistry, Astronomy, Natural Philosophy. Fayette would have attended devotional exercises twice a day in the college chapel and public worship on the Sabbath with the Faculty (unless permission was granted by parents or guardians to attend elsewhere). Systematic exercise was “deemed indispensable to health and improvement of the students.” To further this goal, mechanical labor (manual labor) was provided for. Fayette paid a tuition of $20 per year, room rent of $4.00-$6.00 per year, and $.50-$1.00 a week for board.[2]

In the Abolitionism/Colonization controversy on campus in 1833, Fayette joined 24 fellow students in signing a petition defending their professor (Beriah Green) who supported the abolitionist cause. In 1835 he voted for an anti-slavery resolution in the Western Reserve College Church.

Fayette became a minister and served for many years in various churches in Canada. He died in London, Ontario, Canada in 1876.

John Sykes Fayette in later years.

[1] Letter of James H. Cox to Charles Storrs, 4/23/1832
[2] Catalogue of the Officers and Students, of Western Reserve College, 12/1832

Other African American History Month recollections include CWRU's Afro-American Studies Program and African-American Society

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February 08, 2011

Charter Day: Happy Birthday CWRU!

On February 7, 1826 the State of Ohio granted the charter to establish Western Reserve College.

Frederick Waite, in his 1943 history of the origins of Western Reserve College, describes the communication environment of 1826. “This was before the era of the telegraph or of railroads, and the only means of communication was by messenger or by mail forwarded on stages that usually did not cover over fifty miles a day and ran on alternate days only. Three days must have elapsed before the information reached Hudson [the original home of Western Reserve]; it was the middle of winter when roads were blocked with snow, which delayed notification of the trustees and their travel to a meeting.” [1]

Carroll Cutler, fourth president of Western Reserve, has a wonderful description of the lobbying effort undertaken to secure a charter acceptable to the college’s supporters. He refers to some members of the Ohio Legislature as possessing “infidel sentiments.” Cutler’s history of the early days of Western Reserve College is available in Digital Case.

You might expect that the birthday of such a venerable institution as ours might have occasioned more attention than has seemed to be the case. Early University milestone anniversaries, the 75th and 100th, celebrated in the spring and fall. It wasn’t until the 125th anniversary in 1951 that Charter Day was included in the year-long series of celebrations. A convocation was held at Severance Hall on February 7 and an alumni banquet was held the previous evening. The 1976 Sesquicentennial similarly included Charter Day among a year-long series of events. Held on February 15, the Charter Day Convocation introduced the new history of CWRU, written by C. H. Cramer, presented the University Medal, and recognized new University Fellows.

Cleveland’s early February weather may be less conducive to festivity than May or October. On the other hand, in the cold, gloom, and snow, we could all use a celebration. So, minus the birthday cake - at least this year - Happy 185th Birthday, CWRU!

[1. Federick Clayton Waite. Western Reserve University: The Hudson Era. Cleveland, Western Reserve University Press, 1943; p. 52]

President Leutner blows out candles on the 125th birthday cake, February 6, 1951

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February 04, 2011

CWRU’s Afro-American Studies Program

1968 - a tumultuous a year! The assassination of a presidential candidate who was the brother of an assassinated president; the assassination of a preeminent civil rights leader. The civil rights movement. The women’s rights movement. The Vietnam War. Riots in cities across the nation: Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Cleveland, Chicago. Demands across the nation for reform and changes in higher education. Enter a year-old university, itself suffering the pangs of a new marriage between a technological institute and a university.

In December 1968 the newly-formed Afro-American Society at CWRU presented demands to university president Robert W. Morse in letters dated December 2 and December 5, 1968. Among them was the “Institution of courses in the curriculum leading to a degree in Afro-American studies.”[1] Morse, in his letter of 12/13/1968, agreed that the university should be more effective in “incorporating Afro-American culture in its courses and academic programs.” He requested the Joint Curriculum Committee (of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Case Faculty) set up a task force to promote the development of new courses and explore the feasibility of a major in Afro-American studies. “The Task Force on Afro-American Curriculum was appointed by the Joint Curriculum Committee on February 24, 1969. “[2]

Courses with Afro-American content were already offered at the university, however, the administration and the Afro-American Society were in agreement that “considerable strengthening of the Afro-American components in various parts of the University curriculum is needed.”[3]

John McCluskey was appointed as the first head of the program. The program became a part of the Division of Special Interdisciplinary Studies. In the Fall semester 1969 McCluskey taught 2 courses: Myth and Ritual in Afro-American Culture I and Afro-American Cultural Expressions.

The program was listed as a minor beginning in 1972 and published a research journal, Ju Ju.

Enrollment grew from 77 in 4 courses in 1969/70 to 280 in 18 courses in 1970/71. Courses included: Black Renaissance, Black Communications, Poverty & Health in the Inner City, Dynamics of Social Stratification in a Black Society, Law as it relates to Black Community, and others. The highest enrollment was 301 in 20 courses in the 1974/75 academic year.

This success was short-lived however, as college enrollments across the country dropped. Financial problems continued at the university throughout the 1970s and support for the program waned. In 1976, the program’s chairman, James N. Kerri, resigned. Afro-American Studies was one of several programs at the university that were discontinued in the 1970s, including Urban Studies and Applied Social Sciences, Architecture, and Education.

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Afro-American Studies Program brochure

[1] Letter, Case Western Reserve University Afro-American Society to President Morse, 12/2/1968; Letter, Case Western Reserve University Afro-American Society to President Morse, 12/5/1968
[2] Report of the Task Force on Afro-American Curriculum, 12/1/1969
[3] Letter, Robert W. Morse to Members of The Afro-American Society of Case Western Reserve University, 12/13/1968

Other African American History Month recollections include John Sykes Fayette and African-American Society

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