Black House founder to ‘connect present with past’

Sheila Burt

When James Turner walked on Northwestern’s campus in 1968, he led a protest that resulted in the creation of the African American studies department and the Black House at NU.

Turner, who later founded the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University, will come back to campus Sunday to recall the protest. He will speak at the Black House, 1914 Sheridan Road, Sunday at 7 p.m.

Turner, also a professor of African and African American politics and social policy at Cornell, will recall the 1968 takeover of the Bursar’s Office. Students demanded the creation of the Black House and the African American studies department, and also lobbied administrators to pursue 10 percent enrollment of black students.

“Without (the 1968 protest), black students wouldn’t have been able to live on campus,” said George Spencer, Communication ’04 and a coordinator of the event. “There were so many tumultuous things going on at the time. It was a completely different campus, and we need to be cognizant of that fact and appreciate what they did in that time frame.”

The event is sponsored by For Members Only and the African American Student Affairs department and coincides with Black History Month. This year’s theme is “Black Movements, Looking Back While Reaching Forward.”

The event’s main purpose is to facilitate dialogue between students, added Spencer, also a program assistant in conference planning and food service at NU.

Every year in the beginning of Fall Quarter, black students revisit the historic 1968 takeover by acting out the intense events.

Michael Blake, Medill ’04 and former FMO coordinator, said Turner’s visit to NU will give students firsthand knowledge of historic events that impacted black students.

“It’s connecting the present with all past,” said Blake, who will moderate the event.

Blake, an associate producer for Comcast SportsNet in Chicago, added that bringing Turner to campus has been a goal for many years.

“I just hope that they learn to have a greater appreciation for the history in regards to the African-American presence and also to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the role students play in not only in social transformation, but in the life of the university,” said Johnny Hill, acting director of NU’s African American Student Affairs.

Ketica Guter, a Weinberg junior and FMO coordinator, said she hopes students get a deeper understanding of the Black house.

“It’s important for students to understand the history of the Black House and why it’s a significant landmark at Northwestern,” she said.

Reach Sheila Burt at [email protected].