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African American & African Studies

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African American & African Studies Celebrates 40 Years


The Department of African American & African Studies celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009! To mark this historic occasion we collaborated with a dynamic group of alumni and community members to organize “We Still Have a Charge to Keep,” a series of events designed to

  • commemorate the January 1969 Morrill Hall takeover that led to the formation of the department in the fall of 1969
  • examine the current status of African American student recruitment, admission, retention, and graduation
  • create strategies for advancing the university's goal of becoming a top three public research institution—such a goal cannot be achieved without a strong commitment to the work done in publicly-engaged ethnic studies units

The following events were part of the “We Still Have a Charge to Keep” series.

“Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” Youth Conference.

November 7, 2008
At this half-day tribute and Do-It-Yourself workshop four activists from the 1969 Morrill Hall occupation worked with today's high school and college students to explore strategies for social change. The day was integrated with a panel discussion, intergenerational fishbowl, peer networking, cultural performances, and more. The St. Paul Pioneer-Press covered the event.

“The 1968 Morrill Hall Takeover: Reflections on Black Bodies in Resistance” panel discussion.

November 12, 2008
As part of the Fall 2008 Political Bodies/The Body Politic symposium series at the Institute for Advanced Study, several faculty and a graduate student held a roundtable discussion of the peaceful protest efforts that prompted the University to establish a Black Studies unit on campus. The panelists examined several competing narratives about the events surrounding the January 15, 1969 occupation of Morrill Hall. The panel included AA&AS professors Rose Brewer, Keith Mayes, Yuichiro Onishi, and John Wright, as well as Ph.D. candidate Alisha Volante of the History department.

“Morrill Hall Takeover: 40th Anniversary Banquet.”

January 23, 2009
About 70 people attended a dinner in which activists from the Morrill Hall Takeover were honored. The activists announced the formation of a new development fund: “The Morrill Hall and Rachel Tilsen Social Justice Fund.” This fund will be used to support students doing research on social change/social justice issues.

“Morrill Hall 40 Years Later: The Legacy of Activism and Engaged Scholarship Continues” roundtable.

January 24, 2009
At this roundtable (in Coffman Union's Presidents Room) alumni, faculty, students, and the community discussed the legacy of the Morrill Hall occupation. At the November 7, 2008 “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” conference a youth film crew from the Hope Community documented the day; their 26-minute film was premiered at this roundtable.