Social Justice Tour sheds light on history of race, feminism on campus


Cate Bikales/The Daily Northwestern

The Social Justice Tour featured six stops around campus across the span of a mile, combining content from three preexisting, GPS-guided audio tours.

Cate Bikales and Melissa Dai

A group of 14 students and faculty participated in a Social Justice Tour of Northwestern’s campus Thursday, exploring the untold histories of the University and delving into NU’s activist past.

The tour featured six stops across the span of a mile, combining content from three preexisting, GPS-guided audio tours: the Black Student Experience Tour, the Indigenous Tour and the Feminist Tour. 

Librarian and Black Experience Archivist Charla Wilson, Native American and Indigenous Affairs Director Jasmine Gurneau and Women’s Center Director Sarah Brown, the respective creators of the self-guided tours, led the Social Justice Tour together.

“The goal of bringing these three tours together is to give (the NU community) some understanding of the contributions that Black students, Native American students, Indigenous students and women have given to the University, and to provide a space where people can understand (the challenges and barriers that) are a part of NU history as well,” Wilson said. 

After gathering everyone at The Arch, the guides led attendees to the site of the Bursar’s Office Takeover, where Wilson described the events of the 1968 civil rights protest. 

The guides also taught the group about the activist-related histories behind the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research, Deering Library, the Women’s Center and the Black House.

All topics were equally discussed throughout the tour, with multiple guides chiming in at each stop. Brown said the format was intentional, aiming to highlight the intersections between the Black, Indigenous and feminist histories on campus.

“Our tours have always overlapped,” Brown said. “It’s not as if feminist causes were distinct from the Black experience on campus or from the Indigenous experience. I actually love this opportunity to combine the three to demonstrate that and to hear our voices, one after the other, next to one another.”

Brown, Wilson and Gurneau first held the tour in September after Faculty Director Joan Johnson asked them to combine their tours for a faculty presentation. When the tour proved to be a success, they decided to hold another, this time opening it to the whole community.

Office of Undergraduate Research Associate Director Megan Wood attended Thursday’s tour. She said the tour provided good insight into past and present student experiences, which she hopes will help her office better serve students.

“This tour feels really accessible as a thing to do and a way to learn,” Wood said. “It’s a great way to see our campus, to reckon with its history and to take some time to reflect, which is not something people do all the time but is really important.” 

Although the Social Justice Tour was a one-time event, Brown, Wilson and Gurneau said they hope it made attendees eager to learn more about NU’s history, and that those unable to attend will take advantage of the three self-guided tours. 

As the event came to a close, Gurneau left attendees with a final question.

“When imagining the future seven generations down the line, how do we hope the history of Northwestern will be told, and what is the role that each of you will play?” Gurneau asked.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @CateBikales

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @Melissa__Dai

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