Another Light on the Hill Black Students at Tufts


Tufts African-American Center orientation shirts, 1998

In the 1990s, there were noticeable changes in the undergraduate Black population at Tufts. The number of students of African descent during the early 1990s was lower than in the early 1980s. The Black student population was increasingly diverse in terms of ethnicity and place of birth. In a realization of this latter change, the African-American Society voted in 1991 to rename itself as the Pan-African Alliance to reflect more globally the representation and the concerns of its membership. Students formed the Caribbean Club and the African Political, Social and Cultural Association. Although Black women performed in the Jackson Jills, African-American women formed the a cappella singing group, Essence, a singing group for women of all races interested in the performing of music from the African diaspora.

African-American male and female students, while perhaps not as visible on some sports teams as they were in the 1980s, were valued contributors to Tufts’ athletic squads. Thus, Khari Brown A96, Greg Michel A96, Mike Andrews A99, and Bobby Mpuku A01 played for the men's basketball team. Damon Adams A96 AG99, Dave Carl A96, and Henry Morgan A97 were stalwarts on the football team. Adams, Jayson Brown A95, Noel Dennis A96, and James Lavallee A96 anchored the men’s track team in the mid-1990s. Shawntell Manning A96, Tricia McDermott A96, Randi Henry A97, Melissa Harper A99, and Deonca Williams A01 starred on the women's track team.

A rally in support of departing Black faculty and staff, 1998
Students pose outside of the Capen House, 1994

Black students continued to involve themselves in any number of campus activities. They ran for and won election to the Senate, with Ancy Verdier A96 D03 DG06 and Omar Mattox A98 winning elections to the TCU presidency. Other students served on the TCU, the Elections Board, and the Concert Board. Students of African descent were recent nominees for the Wendell Phillips Award, with Verdier its 1996 recipient. Women of African descent gave presentations in the annual “Beyond the Classroom” program sponsored by the Deans’ Office and the Women's Center. African-American students continued to run for Homecoming King and Queen, with Latonya Christian J96 having been elected as the 1995 Homecoming Queen, announcement of which was mentioned in Ebony Magazine. In concert with other concerned students, Black students were among those spearheading campus-wide activities on behalf of financial aid.

They did not become complacent about making Tufts a more diverse community. Concerned with stagnant enrollments of Black students and the sudden departures of quite a few popular Black professors, administrators and senior staff members, students staged a peaceful march on Ballou Hall in December 1998. That march helped set in motion new initiatives on race and race relations, leading to the increased enrollment of Black students. The class entering in 2001 saw the highest enrollment in Tufts history: 121.

– Gill, "Another Light on the Hill" with further research by Cat Rosch AG22