Black Student Union

Mark Palmer and Patreca Murrell

The Black Student Union is an organization that gives African Americans a voice on a campus that is sometimes unaware of what it is like to be a black on a predominately white campus. It is an organizations that supports blacks and affirms our culture. It's a family.

-Ulysses Hammond K73

During the late 1960s, Kenyon as well as the entire nation, was in a state of change. America was in turmoil as the non-violent Civil Rights movement was quickly being replaced by the more aggressive Black Power Movement. Sparked by the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Colleges began to more aggressively pursue black students and faculty. Towards the end of the decade student activism on college campus increased dramatically as well. 1969, the same year that saw women enter the college, was also a year of unparalleled activity by Kenyon's blacks student population. A group of Kenyon's black students drafted a "Statement of Policy by the Black Students of Kenyon College" which called for increased financial aid for black students, more black faculty, and increased courses that focused on black culture within the existing curriculum. As the year progressed, the students decided to codify their efforts into an official college organization, the Black Student Union.

Started by several students, among them seniors Eugene Peterson, Ruben Pope; juniors Roland Parson, Gary Hayes and Keith O'Donnell; there are two starting dates for the BSU. The initial but unofficial founding in 1969, and the official, college sanctioned founding in 1970 with freshmen Ulysses Hammond, Johnnie Johnson and Barbara Lee. Karen Sheffield, though not a Kenyon student, served as the unofficial secretary of the BSU during the 1969 school year. These students felt a need to band together in order to support one another, preserve their culture and survive at Kenyon. The preamble of the BSU's constitution reads:

The Black Student Union of Kenyon College has been established to further the understanding of the ever changing perspective of the Black Student at Kenyon. This understanding can only be realized through the adamant efforts of an organized group of members dedicated to this purpose. The B.S.U. will strive with unending tenacity to uphold the dignity of Black people everywhere.

BSU Group Picture 1972

Black Student Union 1972: Bottom Row - Geraldine Coleman'74, Leantin Bracks'74, Patreca Murrell'74 & Barbara Lee '73; Back row - Johnnie Johnson '73, Larry Parker '73, unidentifiable

Founding Members of the Black Student Union  

Eugene Peterson

Kenyon Class of 1970

Ruben Pope

Kenyon Class of 1970

Gary Hayes

Kenyon Class of 1970

Keith O'Donnell

Kenyon Class of 1972

Roland Parson

Kenyon Class of 1972

Ulysses Hammond

Kenyon Class of 1973

Johnnie Johnson

Kenyon Class of 1973

Barbara Lee

Kenyon Class of 1973

In 1970, the Kenyon College Black Student Union receive official recognition from the College, with Roland D. Parson '72 serving as its first Chairman. College administrators like Dean of Students, Tom Edwards, was instrumental in helping the students obtain a lounge and form as a group. In its first year of existence, there were 17 members of the BSU and they sponsored a combination of speakers like Dick Gregory, workshops, lectures and films. But more than just raising campus awareness regarding black issues, The BSU was about providing a support system for Kenyon's Black students. They saw it as a way to maintain their black identities.

Roland Parson, 1st BSU Chairman

Roland Parson 1972, First Chairmen of the Black Student Union

America in the 1960s


Kenyon in the 1960s