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Civil Rights Organizations at Wabash

Austin Heise, Pat Myers, Zach Boren

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Civil Rights Movement was coming to an end and was thought to have solved the problematic racism that plagued the United States earlier. Multiple civil rights acts were passed, such as the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and even though these acts were law, the same types of discrimination the United States tried to stop persisted behind closed doors. Likewise, the same was evident on the local level at Wabash College during this time period.

Wabash College had very few African American students, and they were not treated with the same type of attention from the teachers or their fellow students.  Many of the white students on campus were overpowering and viewed the African Americans in a different light during the 1960s and 1970s. The African American students on campus felt like they couldn’t connect to their fellow students and needed something that would help them establish better relations.  Therefore, the “Black House” was established in 1969 and this led to the establishment of the Malcolm X Institute (MXI) in 1971. These were some of the organizations that were formed to help the African American student base cope and coalesce with the entire student body.  Also, The United Black Coalition and the Afro American Student Union, along with The Black-White Coordinating Committee, the Afro Student Society, and the Racial Study Committee were groups that African American students could join to discuss how they could improve the experience at Wabash College for all students and raise awareness on campus.

These organizations became the medium for voicing civil rights concerns with the common goal to reconstruct and improve declining race relations between the white and black students on campus. This was somewhat achieved through the progressive civil rights organizations of Wabash through means of education, discussion, and awareness of the racial problems that existed within the United States as well as the Wabash community.

Black Students Organize, Urge Formation of BWCC

"Black Students Organize,
Urge Formation of BWCC,"
the Bachelor, October 4, 1968

This Bachelor article explains the origins of the Black-White coordinating committee of Wabash and how the organization functioned and was structured. The article shares the problems of the entire country, as relationships between the black and white students on college campuses were declining and unhealthy. The BWCC, like many other college civil rights organizations, helped achieve the desired unity and positive relations on campus as it promoted education and awareness of race issues within the Wabash community.

Integration Committee Moves

"Integration Committee Moves,"
the Bachelor, November 8, 1968

This Bachelor article talks about the newly formed Racial Study Committee and the problematic rates of admission and retention of black students and help is obviously needed. Alumni and students come together in this committee to address this problem that has cursed Wabash as well as other college campuses across the country for some time. This article is important to the civil rights organizations of Wabash because this committee is proactively addressing a common goal of the Civil Rights Movement.

Dear Brother

"Dear Brother,"
n.d. (early 1970s)

This article takes a look at a few students at Wabash College during the 1970s and their experience there.  The article  highlights the life of Keith Nelson while he was the student body President of the Afro-American Student Union (AASU).  Keith Nelson writes in his article that the AASU is an open-involvement group and that African American students have no obligations or pressures to join the organization.  He also describes how the college is trying to step up their involvement with the African American students with new courses, organizations, and opportunities.        

Institute Offers Community, Evening Black Course

"Institute Offers Community,
Evening Black Course,"
the Bachelor, September 10, 1971

This article talks about how an important Wabash organization, the Malcolm X Institute (MXI), offered a night class on Contemporary Black Affairs to help educate and bring the entire community together. This is particularly important to the Civil Rights Groups of Wabash because it shows how a particular organization on campus tried to combat the racial problems of a typical college campus through education and awareness, displaying how the MXI was proactive in its endeavors to end racial discrimination at the Wabash community.

 

Interview with Horace Turner

Interview with Horace Turner,
Wabash College Oral History Project,
March 1, 1983

This is an excerpt from an interview conducted on March 1, 1983 about the life of Horace Turner while he was at Wabash College.  Horace Turner was the director of the Malcolm X Institute (MXI) for more than 30 years at Wabash College.  The article shows that much of the faculty at Wabash College wanted to know if the MXI was a legitimate organization, and they did not know if this should be a school funded project.  Mr. Turner addresses allies of the MXI and found that the MXI was a major reason why students and faculty stayed at Wabash College so that they could encourage other African American students to enroll.