History (Short)

Timeline:

[Mint/Green colored texts and sentences are links to an external page]

February 16 & 17 1960 – A Symposium on Africa is held on Wellesley’s campus. Some topics were, “Africa’s Place in the World”, “Does Africa Exist?”, … . Some speakers were – Julius K. Nyerere, Chairman of the Tanganyika Elected Members Organization (he later led Tanganyika to independence in 1961); Melville J. Herskovits, founder of the first African Studies Program at an American academic institution – i.e. Northwestern University in 1948; John S.R. Duncan, former member of the Sudan Political Service; M’Hamed Essaafi, former Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs; Rupert Emerson, Harvard University Professor of International Affairs; C Vaughan Ferguson, Bureau of African Affairs of the US Dept of State; William A. Hance, Author of Geography of Modern Africa and founding fellow of the African Studies Association; Julia J. Henderson, associate commissioner and director of the U.N. Office of Technical Assistance; Ralph Bunche, U.N. Under-Secretary for Political Affairs; and Andrew M. Kamarck, World Bank Economic Advisor. Listen to Julius Nyerere’s 3-part Closing Speech at the Symposium. (Margret Clapp introduces him in the recording). The Symposium was presented by the Barnette Miller Foundation. In addition to the Symposium, there was “An Exhibition of African Sculpture” in the Sculpture Court of the Jewett Art Center. Read more on page 4 of The Townsman.

Fall/September 1960 – The first African from the African continent arrives on campus in the Fall. She came from Nairobi, Kenya, and graduated in 1964. She was 1 of 4 ethnic students (ethnic meaning non-white, however she was the only ‘Black’ student) in her graduating class in 1964.

Fall 1961 – The second African from the African continent arrives on campus in the Fall. She came from Kumasi, Ghana, as an Advanced Standing student and graduated in 1963, becoming Wellesley College’s first African graduate. She was 1 of 6 ethnic students (ethnic meaning non-white, however she was the only ‘Black’ student) in her graduating class in 1963.

Fall 1961 – Third African student from the African continent arrives in the Fall. She came from Northern Rhodesia (present-day Zambia), but unfortunately withdrew.

April 13th 1961 – W. E. B. DuBois, 93 years old at this time, sends a letter to Wellesley College requesting submissions for Encyclopedia Africana, a project sponsored by the Government of Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana Academy of Learning (presently known as the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences). His letter to Wellesley College included a description of the proposed Encyclopedia Africana. While the exact letter DuBois wrote to Wellesley cannot be found, the responses sent back to him by departments have been digitized. In chronological order, he received responses from the History, Political Science, Economics, Sociology and Anthropology departments.

For a list of correspondence between DuBois and Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana Academy of Learning, click HERE. For more information on the Ghana Academy of Learning, click HERE. For a list of letters from Wellesley College departments to DuBois regarding Encyclopedia Africana, click HERE.

Fall 1962 – Fourth African student from the African continent arrives in the Fall. She came from Tananarive, Madagascar, and graduated in 1966. She was 1 of 5 ethnic students (ethnic meaning non-white, however she was the only ‘Black’ student) in her graduating class in 1966.

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Fall 1965 – Six African-American students arrive on campus. This is the largest number of American domestic ‘Black’ students entering the College at a single point in time since its founding.

1968 – Ethos was born. Read more about the Ethos story here and here. An interdepartmental Afro-American Studies major was created and directed by a committee of Economics, History, Political Science, Sociology and Anthropology professors.

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Fall 1970 Mbelolo ya Mpiku is the first African faculty hired by the College. He teaches in the French department and is from Kinsasha, Democratic Republic of Congo.

September 1970 – Harambee (meaning “working together” in Swahili) House is established and becomes a cultural center for ‘Black’ students. The Afro-American Studies interdepartmental major is renamed to be the Black Studies Program. The Black Task Force is founded. Read more about BTF.Pg 160-165.

… !#! The 1970’s saw an increase in the ethnic (non-white) population on Wellesley’s campus. While there may have been immigrant (Africans living in the US or Europe), and/or first-generation Africans (Africans born outside of the African continent to African parents) admitted, it is hard to tell of their ethnic origins even if names/last names are obvious, as the College archives only lists the American home state or European country they applied from. The number of Africans coming from the African continent as international students also gradually increased. !#! …

October 29 1972 – Slater International Center is established through the generosity of Priscilla Allen Slater (Class of 1916) and her husband, Ellis D. Slater. A Cameroonian student is one of 6 students to give a toast.

May 1973 – The Black Studies Program is recognized by the Academic Council as a Department.

Fall 1973 – Ifeanyi Menkiti, poet and faculty in the Philosophy department, arrives on campus. He is from Onitsha, Nigeria.

Fall 1973 – John Karefa-Smart, the first Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone (occasionally acted as Prime Minister during his time as Minister) and physician becomes a faculty in the Black Studies department.

1975Wellesley celebrates 100 years.

Fall 1978Thomas Kanza, Democratic Republic of Congo’s first Ambassador to the United Nations, holds a teaching position at Wellesley in the Political Science department.

… !#! As the number of African students gradually increased on campus, they used resources of Slater and Harambee House/Ethos as they had no organization of their own.

No student organization existed on campus that had the issues of African affairs only at heart. !#! …

Spring 1982Prof. Aggrey Mxolisi Mbere, South African, arrives on campus. He teaches in the Black Studies Department.

Fall 1983  – Prof. Wellington Nyangoni, Zimbabwean, arrives on campus. He holds a concurrent position in the Black Studies department and at the African-Afro-American Studies department at Brandeis University.

Commencement 1984 – A South African student is the first African to give the student commencement speech.

October 23rd 1986 – 50 students are arrested during an apartheid/divestment protest on campus.

November 18th 1986 – Members of Wellesley College’s Board of Trustees meet with Zulu Chief Mangosuthu Gatsha Buthelezi while he was in Boston to  receive an honorary law degree from Boston University.

March 5th 1987Symposium on South Africa. “The purpose of this event is to increase understanding of the current situation in South Africa, and to give us an opportunity to explore together the various courses of action that we might take, as individuals and as a community, to help bring an end to apartheid.”

March 25th 1987Prof. Mandla Tshabalala of the University of Cape  Town visits Wellesley College as part of a US tour sponsored under the Fulbright program.

April 7th 1989 – Wellesley College votes for a decision on its policy on South Africa. This is however publicly announced on October 5th 1990. “The Trustees of Wellesley College, together with its faculty, students and administration, are unanimous in abhorrence of the systematic deprivation of human rights in South Africa. Because apartheid violates all principles held sacred in an academic institution, Wellesley will continue to denounce apartheid in its educational forums, in its public statements, and in its relations with firms whose stocks are held within its endowment which do business in South Africa. …”

Fall 1990Prof. Ikem Okoye, Nigerian, arrives on campus. He teaches in the Art History department.

1991African Awareness Now (AAN) is formed in response to various disturbing African political and socioeconomic events ignored by the U.S./the world at large, particularly Apartheid, and the fact that the 7 Africans on campus at that time could not identify with the African-American organization which knew almost nothing about the happenings on the continent, or its peoples and culture. All AAN meetings were in Slater with its official advisor being Prof. Jackie Howard-Matthews of the Black Studies Department, and unofficial advisors being Prof. Wellington Nyangoni, also of the Black Studies Department and Sylvia Hiestand of Slater International Center. The AAN organization had 3 aspects to it; Education, Culture and Activism, and started off from conversations earlier among the 7 Africans on campus at the time with the help of Slater International Center (particularly Sylvia Hiestand). Gumboot is created as well and is a strict AAN member only closed sub-group which eventually opened up to include anyone on campus interested.

Fall 1991Prof. Claire Andrade-Watkins, Cape Verdean, arrives on campus. She teaches in the Black Studies department.

April 1992 – The Black Studies Department becomes the Africana Studies Department.

Fall 1993Prof. Salem Mekuria, Ethiopian, arrives on campus. She teaches in the Art Studio/Cinema and Media Studies department.

Fall 1994Prof. Pashington Obeng, Ghanaian, arrives on campus. He teaches in the Africana Studies department.

Fall 1995Prof. Moyosore Okediji, Nigerian, arrives on campus. He teaches in the Art History department.

Fall 1997Prof. Filomina Steady, Sierra Leonean, and Prof. Seble Dawit, Ethiopian, arrive on campus. They teach in the Africana Studies and Womens Studies departments respectively.

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Fall 1998 – AAN rebrands itself and becomes the Wellesley African Students’ Association (WASA) with African Awareness Now (AAN) as its backbone. Although it became WASA, many still referred to it as AAN/held on to its AAN glory. The change to WASA was to purposefully tone down political activism undesirable to the WASA classes of ’99, ’00 and ’01.

September 23rd 1999 – The College had changed its internal communication system “Sallie” to “FirstClass”. An initially frustrated WASA member, Ms. Gloria Aggrey, while trying to familiarize herself with the new system as she tried to setup WASA’s group discussion/conference page (what we now know as Talking Drum on Google Groups), jokingly wrote:

“My dear AANers, • I stand before you to stand behind you, to tell you something I know nothing about. • • Me, sitting right here in this chair in front of a computer in the Sci. Library, think it is in my own personal opinion that this conference needs and must be blessed before use. • • Before we begin, let tranquility predominate and permeate through the tentacles of this natural environment. • • In memorium of our now departed elder, Lea, I would like to take this opportunity to inaugurate the opening of this here conference. • • People and Amanfoo, we need the Schnapps most importantly, but don’t forget 10 white chickens, 5 Fulani cows, and 4 pregnant ewes. Biltong, samosas, and chaps are also welcomed! • • Those of you who remember the Eboso dance, please, congregate on Severance just before sundown in the right attire and perform it to appease the gods. • • We have suffered these past 3 weeks as we have tried to establish our presence on this so called FIRSTCLASS system. As for me, hmmm, I don’t know what the creators were thinking when they named this program because as a matter of fact, hmmm, in my own personal and individual opinion, hmmm, this is no first class. • • To our elders departed… • To all our first years and newcomers • To Ada & Nyasha in particular cos they aren’t East Africans like the rest J • To AAN • To Huda & Lola • To exec board • To Queen Rams • To the Princess of Zimbabwe • To akush kush alias koobie woobie • To Auntie Agie • To Mr. O’Steen (and why not?) • To moi of course • • Well, now, the metabolism of my human mechanism is out of my perpetual control–so off to Schneider I must go! • • Thanks for nothing”- WRITTEN BY GLORIA AGGREY SEPT 23RD 1999

October 1999 – members of WASA protested at the South African Benefit Concert because they were not invited to perform.

Spring 2000: WASA hosts MIT Africans on campus for a Social in the new Stone-Davis dorm, cooking, eating and exchanging gumboot routines while trying not to talk about IASA (see next) which is time-consuming.

April 2000 – THE EPIC IASA Conference. IASA (International African Student’s Association) was a non-profit umbrella organization for African students and young adults in North America. It aimed to create a medium through which African young adults could network. The annual IASA conference was held on a university campus hosted by that university’s ASA and brought together African students and professionals. It was as hyped as going to the HBS ABC often is. The 5th annual conference that year was held in Boston and was unprecedented because it was co-hosted by Wellesley, MIT, Harvard and Northeastern University, with sessions being held at the various campuses. It was titled “The Youth as a Vehicle for Progress in the 21st Century: Forging Links towards an African Renaissance.” It was a 3 day event featuring engaging workshops, panel discussions, a fashion show, a cultural show, renowned speakers, a banquet, several corporate sponsors and a career fair. Wellesley contributed the most funds and therefore had the bulk of the keynote sessions and workshops on campus. MIT hosted the banquet, career fair, and the party. Keynote speakers were Naomi Tutu, Kwesi Botchwey, Judith Aidoo. Panelist speakers included Wellesley’s own Pashington Obeng and Salem Mekuria.

April 2000 – WASA, WCD & Ethos protested the SOFC’s (Student Organization Funding Committee) decision not to fund the three organizations for the next academic year at Senate.

March 11th 2004 to March 14th 2004 – African Film Festival. Collins Cinema.

2004 – The 1st WASA Magazine is published. It is a 72 paged Magazine with the sub-title, “Celebrating 40 years of African Presence in Wellesley College.” We now know that 2004 rather marked 44 years of African presence in Wellesley College. 

With WASA in full bloom in the early 2000’s, Africa Awareness Now (AAN) became the Lecture Chair position. “AAN” now means “Africa Action Network“, a committee under WASA’s Lecture Chair whose focus is primarily political and specific to the African continent. This committee came about after debates and discussions were sparked at meetings (and on ‘community’) by members of the WASA classes of ’02 and ’03. The conversations related to the lack of political drive among members, in an effort to make WASA more visible on campus.

November 20th 2004 – Wellesley African Students’ Association (WASA) presents MAMALAND. An African Cultural Experience You Don’t Want To Miss. Free Admission. Jewett Auditorium. Co-sponsors: CLCE, Harambee House, History Dept., English Dept., Peace and Justice Studies, Africana Studies, Office of Religious Life and Middle Eastern Studies. (The first Mamaland).

“During my tenure there I was pleased that the presidents of WASA, Ethos and WCD worked together to address the issue of increasing the number of faculty of color being hired for open positions in various departments.  As I recall, they wrote letters to the chair of each department that was hiring encouraging the search committees to give serious consideration to actively recruit more faculty of color.  They also organized their majors to attend the job talks of candidates invited to visit the campus.  I do believe that their efforts might well have been one of the contributing factors to the increase in hires of faculty of color during that period of time.” – Former Director of Harambee House (2005 to 2008)

Read a WASA alumna’s account of WASA’s history here.

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