The History of the Black Student Union

Milestones and Other Important Moments

1946 - November

The faculties of Kenyon College and of Bexley Hall vote unanimously to "admit negro students on an equality with white students."  

1947 - January 22

During an informal talk in the Peirce Lounge, visiting poet Langston Hughes famously asks "Why aren't there any negroes at Kenyon?" His inquiry is credited with creating a sense of urgency for President Gordon Chalmers (1937-52) to recruit black students to the College. 


Allen Ballard '52 and Stanley L. Jackson '52 enter the first-year class; the only two black students at the time, they are credited with integrating the College.

1950 - November

Kenyon cancels a football game against Sewanee, The University of the South, after the coach receives a request that Kenyon's two black players not participate in the game. 

1967 - February

Kenyon hosts a civil rights conference; the Rev. Jesse Jackson attends. 

1969- January 24

Kenyon hosts College and the Ghetto, a three-day conference organized by a faculty-student collaboration known as the Experimental Foundation. 

1969 January 30

The 10 black students enrolled at Kenyon deliver a "Statement of Policy on Black Students at Kenyon College" to President William G. Caples. The statement outlines three demands: (1) prioritize scholarship money to allow more black students to attend Kenyon; (2) actively seek and recruit qualified black faculty; and (3) provide space in the curriculum for black studies. The College responds by establishing a commission on the disadvantaged. 

1969 - February 5

Black ReEducation at Kenyon begins. Led by Barry Goode '69 as part of his senior honors project in political science, the five-week program was designed to expose the Kenyon community to the realities of the black experience through student-led seminars, filmsand poetry readings. WKCO broadcasts a series of radio biographies of notable African Americans. 

1969 - Fall

The first black women to study at Kenyon's Coordinate College–Barbara (Lee) Johnson ’73, Doretha (Smallwood) Leftwood '73, and Glory (Wolfe) Schuler '73–arrive on campus. 

1969 -November

The Report of the Commission of the Disadvantaged is issued and results in the NAACP-Kenyon scholarship program (NAACP will recommend 8-10 prospective students and sponsor full scholarships to 5 scholars annually); a teaching-internship program to provide teaching opportunities to black graduate students; and a visitors-in residence program to sponsor guests to deliver lectures and conduct workshops and conferences.  


The BSU is recognized as a campus organization with 17 members; Roland D. Parson '71 serves as its first chairperson.  

1970 - Fall

The first cohort of NAACP-Kenyon Scholarship recipients enter the first-year class: Wayne Connor Bess, Willie Leon Haslip, Patreca Ann Murrell, Lean'tin Bracks and Victor Francis Dickens.  

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1970 - April

The BSU formally requests the College to (1) establish courses on the black experience in America in the English and drama departments; (2) continue to offer similar courses in the history and political science departments; (3) establish a Black Student Center; (4) assign black upper-class counselors for all black incoming students; and (5) appoint a BSU representative to the admissions and scholarship committee. On May 15, the committee on equal education opportunity issues a memorandum to all faculty members endorsing points one, two, and five. Points three and four are tabled for further discussion. 

1972 - May

The BSU hosts comedian, activist and political thinker Dick Gregory, and publishes "Black at Kenyon." 

1972 - September 1

Leon Haslip '74 paints a mural on the wall of the BSU Lounge with help from members of the BSU.  

1973 -January 14

The BSU sponsors Black Commemoration Day, coordinated by Barbara Lee (now Johnson) '73. 

1973 - Fall

A BSU-faculty talent show raises funds to establish a black student scholarship fund.  

1974 - Spring

The BSU sponsors a craft sale, another fundraising event to establish a black scholarship fund.  

1974 Fall

The number of black students enrolled at Kenyon dwindles from a peak of 20 in 1972 to just 8, with only one black student entering the first-year class that fall. 

1975 - February 13-15

Senior Jennie Craig performs "I Am a Black Woman."  

1975 - Spring

This year’s BSU craft sale features an exhibition titled "Touches of the Black Aesthetic," inspired by James Brown's words, "Say it loud! I'm black and I'm proud!"

Kenneth Bluford (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) is the first black faculty member hired at Kenyon College; he teaches in the Department of English from 1975 to 1979. 

1975 - Fall

Together with the Office of Admissions, the BSU co-sponsors Kenyon’s first Black Weekend for high school students visiting Kenyon.


Mary Elizabeth Rucker is the first black woman to join the faculty; she teaches in the Department of English from 1978 to 1981.  A tenure-track member of the faculty, Rucker was denied a contract renewal after three years and sues the College for racial and sex discrimation in 1980.


"Dialogue of the Tenement Window" by poet Allison Joseph '88 H'14 is published in the Kenyon Review. Joseph is the first undergraduate black woman published in the KR. Before her, only two other undergraduates had been published in the KR during their time as students, Robert Lowell '40 and James Wright '52.  

1987 - May 5

The report on the task force on diversity recommends 1. hiring a designated administrator for minority affairs and establishing a multicultural center; 2. recruiting a minimum of four faculty members in African-American curricular areas within two years and instituting an internship for ABD-predoctoral candidates from minority backgrounds. 3. recruiting staff to match the diversity of the student body; and 4. focusing efforts to recruit minority students from within the state of Ohio with a goal of increasing the number of underrepresented students by five per year.

1989 - January 16

Kenyon hosts Martin Luther King, Jr. Week, marking the first time the College celebrates the legacy of Dr. King since the U.S. made MLK Day a federal holiday in 1986. Kenyon continues to host an annual celebration, known as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Dialogue. 


1989 to 1992: President Philip H. Jordan, Jr. hires Frank W. Hale, Jr., former Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion and Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University (1971-1988), to serve as special assistant to the President and consultant on diversity at the College.

The College hires its first director of multicultural affairs, Mila Cooper, who helps create the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

1990 - March 23-25

The BSU celebrates its 20th anniversary; 29 black students are enrolled at Kenyon and there are 69 black alumni. 


Professor Theodore Mason of the Department of English is the first black faculty member to earn tenure. 

1992 - September

The Snowden Multicultural Center is dedicated on Chase Avenue. The center is named for a Knox County African American family famous as a musical band from the 1850s to the 1920s. Thomas and Ellen Snowden, the first black people in Knox County to be married, arrived in Ohio in the 1820s in the first wave of immigration to the western frontier. 

1992 December

The BSU sponsors its first Kwanza celebration.  

1994 - October 13

The BSU presents a panel discussion, "Shades of Ebony: Black Students at Kenyon College," as part of a series of events to celebrate its 25th anniversary. 

1995 - April 26

The BSU hosts poet Maya Angelou for a campus reading.

1995 - April 27

The Collegian runs a feature titled, "In Celebration of the BSU: Voices from the African American Community." 

1997 - May 1

BSU co-founder Ulysses B. Hammond '73 delivers the Commencement address and receives an honorary doctorate. Professor Theodore Mason delivers the Baccalaureate address. 

1999 - Fall

The BSU celebrates its 30th anniversary.


James Greenwood '02 completes a senior project in American studies on the history of black students at Kenyon. 

2004 - Fall

The BSU celebrates its 35th anniversary.

2005 - April

Professor Marla Kohlman of the Department of Sociology is the first black woman faculty member to earn tenure. 

2006 - June

BSU co-founder Ulysses B. Hammond '73 discusses the importance of black student unions and campus activism in Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

2006 -October

Professor Theodore Mason is the first black faculty member to be promoted to full professor.

2008 - Spring

The mural in the BSU lounge is painted over by mistake during renovations to Peirce Hall. 

2008 - Fall

Leon Haslip '74 returns to campus to recreate his original mural in the BSU lounge

2009 -Fall

The BSU celebrates its 40th anniversary. 

2013 - July

Sean M. Decatur takes office as the 19th president of Kenyon; he is the College's first black president. 

2014 - August

President Decatur announces formation of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which will absorb the mission of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Chris Kennerly, the associate dean of students and director of multicultural affairs, and two additional staff members retain their positions in the office; Decatur adds a new position, associate provost for diversity, equity, and inclusion, held by Ivonne M. García in its first year. In 2015, Professor Ted Mason takes over the position. 

2014 - September 

The BSU celebrates its 45th anniversary, which includes the re-naming and re-dedication of the BSU lounge.

2016 - December

The Collegian runs an article titled "Campus Safety asks BSU to take down art installation flags." 

2018 - Summer

The Alumni Bulletin includes a feature on diversity and inclusion.