Another Light on the Hill Black Students at Tufts

1980-1989

Although the African-American student population at Tufts declined throughout the 1980s, African-American students remained quite active in campus affairs. Through the African-American Society and the African-American Center, they established the African-American Dance Troupe, the Third Day Gospel Choir and the Black Outreach Program. African-American students established the Onyx, a literary magazine, and served as writers and editors for both The Tufts Daily and The Observer. From the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, black students wrote “The Other Side” column in the Daily in which they commented on campus race relations; in particular, their columns concerned themselves with issues such as admission of black students, the existence of “black tables” in dining halls, and the programming of Culture houses. Members of the African-American Society cooperated with other campus organizations in sponsoring the Third World Conference on Africa, a teach-in on the impact of the Reagan Presidency, the Benefit Concert for World Hunger, the Black-Jewish Coalition and an International Feast. In addition, black students were active in such campus productions as "Jesus Christ, Superstar," "Godspell," "Pippin" and the highly acclaimed 1986 production of "The Wiz," directed by Audrey Davis and choreographed by Iris Carter.Throughout the 1980s, African-American male and female students won election as King and Queen of the Homecoming Weekend.

Throughout the 1980s, African-American students were active in any number of campus organizations and sports teams. Over the decade black students, from Willette Joyner, Pedro Williams and T.J. Johnson in the early 1980s to Ron Blackburn, Dwight Byfield, Barry Taylor, and David Neal in the mid-1980s to Myra Frazier, Julian Barnes, Sharon Joseph and Silvio Tavares in the late 1980s-early 1990s were elected members and officers of the TCU Senate. Myra Frazier would be the 1990 Wendell Phillips Award winner and Julian Barnes would win the first student body election for TCU president. From Charlie Neal, Bill Ewing and Troy Cooper of the 1982 championship season to Greg Davis, Darrell Brunson, Trey Robinson and Vern Riddick of the mid-to-late 1980s, black students were mainstays of the men's basketball team. Eric Mitchell, George Lawrence, Harry Lightfoot and Kenneth Fauntleroy distinguished themselves on the football teams of that era. Similarly, women athletes such as Paula Moss on the basketball team, Ellie Roane on the lacrosse and soccer teams, Jan Brown, Karin McCollin, Vera Stenhouse, and Carol Tate on the track team won regional and national acclaim for their performances. Likewise, Erica Barnes on the soccer team and Tami Gaines on the women's softball team earned well-deserved plaudits.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Robert O'Hara and Heather Simms (two recent Tufts alumni who are currently pursuing careers in the theater) reintroduced black drama productions to the campus. Over their Tufts years, both O'Hara and Simms brought distinction to themselves for their directing and starring in productions such as “T'Ain't Right,” “Trouble in Mind,” “Ain't Misbehavin',” “The Trip,” and “The Colored Museum.” Their legacy continues today with the work of the Black Theater Company.

– Gill, "Another Light on the Hill"