In the second part of our two-part series on key moments in Washington University’s Black history, we will examine events from the 1968 publication of the first Black Manifesto through the present day.
Four years ago, Student Life published “Invisible on Campus,” a five-part series focusing on the fight for Black undergraduate representation and inclusion at Washington University, both historically and in the present day.
A look at the rhetoric surrounding dialogue on diversity, changing strategies in activism and remaining challenges the University faces.
Wash. U. boasts a number of black administrators, but that diversity hasn’t extended to the faculty ranks, and University officials pointed to these numbers as the hardest to change.
Ask administrators about Wash. U.’ history of recruiting black students, and they’ll say that attempts to diversify the undergraduate population aren’t new. “We’ve been focused on it for a really long time,” Julie Shimabukuro, the Japanese-American director of admissions, said. “Wash. U.’s my alma mater, so this is a really important thing to me personally and to our office.” But the numbers don’t bear out tangible results from that focus.
Washington University’s early history with racial integration was a rocky one. In the late 1800s, with the onset of Jim Crow segregation throughout the nation, institutions like Wash. U. that had previously accepted black students, however infrequently, completely barred their doors to them.
The reporting for this series began last August with research on the Black Manifesto Collection archived in Olin Library’s special collections section. This collection contains the 1968 Black Manifesto, as well as subsequent manifestos and related documents.
Over the course of the fall semester, Student Life spoke with nearly 50 University community members, comprising administrators, faculty, staff, students and alumni. We were searching for evidence of a plan to counteract the University’s history of homogeneity; we hoped to hear tangible, specific tactics that the administration will either continue or adopt to increase the low percentages of black students and faculty and to improve the campus climate.
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