Purdue Libraries - Archives and Special Collections
 

1894

David Robert Lewis

David Robert Lewis is Purdue University’s first black graduate. Coming from Greensburg, Indiana, he earns a B.S. in Civil Engineering. His senior thesis is entitled, "Highway Road Construction."

1904

Richard Wirt Smith is Purdue’s first black athlete. In the 1904 edition of the Debris yearbook he is listed by his classmates as "the best baseball player in the class," and "the only one of his kind in the Pharmacy Class."

1905

John Henry Weaver is on Purdue's track team. He is the first African American at Purdue to earn a letter "P" for athletic participation.

1913

David Crosthwait, Jr. graduates with a B.S. degree from Purdue. He would later become a prominent electrical and mechanical engineer and an authority on heat transfer, ventilation, and air conditioning, including authoring numerous guides and receiving patents on numerous inventions.

1914

Elmer James Cheeks becomes the first African American to graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

The Purdue sports program becomes segregated during the 1910s and 1920s, following a national trend.

1925

Lafayette teenager Delia L. Silance wins a scholarship to attend Purdue after high school. She graduates as a distinguished student.

Delia Silance

1941

Attack on Pearl Harbor causes United States to call for enlistment of young men. Many African Americans answer the call.

Despite the wartime influx of black student-soldiers, no black students on Purdue’s campus were allowed dormitory housing. Black men stayed in the International House in West Lafayette, while black women were forced to rent rooms in Lafayette or live at the Lafayette YWCA.

Famed singer Marian Anderson performs on Purdue's campus.

1945

Frederick Branch becomes the first black Marine Corps officer in the United States after completing his Navy V-12 training at Purdue.

Frederick Branch

1946

Indiana governor Ralph Gates pressures Purdue to desegregate its dormitories.

1947

Housing in Purdue dormitories is desegregated.

Purdue alumnus Willard Ransom, an African American attorney, challenges the university on its policy of segregated sports teams. A student protest leads to a black football player being allowed to play.

1950

Phillip V. Hammond becomes the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at Purdue. His degree is in pharmacology.

1955

Dolores Cooper [Shockley] earns a Ph.D at Purdue University and becomes the first African American woman in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D. in pharmacology as well as the first African American woman to earn a Ph.D. from Purdue.

1957

African American athlete Lamar Lundy becomes only Boilermaker to win both basketball and football MVP awards in the same year

1960s

Speakers such as Jessie Jackson, Julian Bond, Dick Gregory, and the Indianapolis chapter of the Black Panthers visit Purdue’s campus.

Students organize the Negro History Study Group, which eventually becomes the Black Student Union.

1965

Out of 20,176 Purdue students, only 129 are African American.

1967

Students graduating

Students graduating

1968

Approximately 150 students protest racism nonviolently by symbolically laying bricks on the stairs of Hovde Hall, the administration building. They also delivered a petition listing specific demands for change at the University. In response, Purdue President Frederick Hovde established the Schuhmann Committee to investigate the problems the students were experiencing.

1968 continued

Students participating in political rallies.

Students participating in political rallies

1968 continued

One year after the student protest at Hovde Hall, the Exponent student newspaper publishes a supplement summarizing what progress had been made to meet the nine student demands. Almost none of the demands had been met satisfactorily.

1968 continued

Helen Bass Williams

Helen Bass Williams becomes the first black professor at Purdue.

1968 continued

Cheerleader Pam King stirs controversy after she does the Black Panther salute at both football and basketball games. In an interview she states, "This is the black man’s salute. It’s a symbol of pride and dignity for the black man—a symbol of unity. It shows we salute differently as a group. But that does not mean we are automatically at odds with the white man."

Classes focusing on African Americans are added to the curriculum in departments such as Speech, History, and Sociology.

Faculty in the Krannert School of Management establish the Business Opportunity Program (BOP) in April 1968 to increase diversity and give underrepresented students access to a world-class management education.

1969

One year after the student protest at Hovde Hall, the Exponent student newspaper publishes a supplement summarizing what progress had been made to meet the nine student demands. Almost none of the demands had been met satisfactorily.

Linda Jo Mitchell

1969 continued

Purdue track team member Eric McCaskill is arrested for disorderly conduct after participating in a small demonstration. His arrest spurs a march from the Purdue Memorial Union into the town of Lafayette.

Eric McCaskill

After his case is dismissed, the student marchers return to campus and demand to speak with President Hovde about their prior requests.

1969 continued

The Schuhmann Committee officially endorses the establishment of a black cultural center.

June 6, 1969

Purdue Board of Trustees unanimously accepts the development program for black students, including establishment of a black cultural center.

June 6, 1969 continued

African American cheerleader Pam King quits Purdue’s cheerleading squad after she is barred from entering the basketball arena during the playing of the national anthem. Pam had previously been criticized for holding up the Black Salute during football and basketball games.

Students cheering

June 6, 1969 continued

Delta Sigma Theta

The first African American sorority at Purdue, Delta Sigma Theta, is founded.

1970

The Black Cultural Center is built and opens. According to Professor Singer Buchanan, the Black Cultural Center’s chief administrator, the establishment of the Center is "an attempt to bring together in one place as much of the black experience as is humanly possible, so that it may be visible and viable for all concerned…."

Dedication for BCC

1970 continued

Black students

Interdisciplinary Afro-American Studies Program is passed with an overwhelming vote by the HSSE Senate.

1970 continued

Student studying

The first issue of Black Hurricane, the Black Student Union newspaper is published. The first page reads, "With the forces of one Black Nation, we shall move for total freedom. Just as a hurricane, our sphere knows no boundaries to its destination. For if it takes devastation to achieve our goals, so be it. . ."

1971

Due to the efforts of black students and black faculty members, students are able to pursue a major or minor in Black Studies beginning in the fall semester of 1971.

1972

John Houston, a graduate student, becomes the first official director of the Black Cultural Center.

1973

Antonio Zamora is hired as the Director of the Black Cultural Center following the resignation of John Houston.

Oral History Interview with Antonio Zamora

1974

The Engineering Department starts the Minority Engineering Program, with alumna Marion Blalock as its head.

Marion Blalock

1974 continued

Black Cultural Center Fall calendar and program

1974 BCC calendar

1975

Purdue student and ASME member Tony Harris approaches President Arthur Hansen about forming a national organization for black engineering students. President Hansen sends out a letter to 80 different colleges and universities requesting that each send a representative to Purdue to discuss the formation of a national body. As a result, the National Society of Black Engineers is founded.

February 27, 1975

Dimensions in Black poetry program presented by BCC

BCC program

1976

Black Cultural Center calendar and program

1976 calendar

1976 Ali program

1977

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC program

1978

Cassandra Agee becomes the first African American Homecoming Queen.

BCC calendar

BCC program

1979

Black Cultural Center calendar and programs

BCC program

BCC program

1980

The Purdue Black Alumni Organization is founded on the 10th anniversary of the Black Cultural Center.

Black Cultural Center programs

1981

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC program

BCC program

1982

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC program

BCC program

1983

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

1984

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

1985

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC program

BCC program

1986

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

1987

Students plan a protest in response to racist events on campus.

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

1988

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

1989

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

1990

Robert Taylor becomes Purdue’s first black Board of Trustees member.

Purdue students elect Tarrus Richardson as the first African American president of the student government.

1991

Myron White becomes the first African American to win the G.A. Ross Award for being the outstanding graduating senior male.

BCC program

1992

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC program

BCC program

1993

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC program

BCC program

1994

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC program

1995

Antonio Zamora retires as Director of the Black Cultural Center. Renee Thomas is appointed interim director, and works with students and staff to develop plans and lead fundraising for a new Black Cultural Center facility.

BCC program

1996

Renee Thomas is appointed Director of the Black Cultural Center, following a national search.

Rene Thomas Oral History Interview

Renee Thomas

1997

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC program

BCC program

1998

Mamon and Claude Powers donate money for the construction of a new Black Cultural Center. Once completed, the new Black Cultural Center is the first building on campus to be designed by an African American architect.

BCC program

1999

Black Cultural Center opens

BCC program

BCC program

2000

Black Cultural Center program

BCC program

BCC program

2001

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

2002

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

2003

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

2004

Linda Brown Thompson, who was at the center of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court case at age seven, comes to speak on campus. She discusses issues such as education, segregation, equality, and the famous case that ultimately led to the desegregation of American schools.

BCC program

2005

Purdue Women's soccer

Purdue Women's soccer

2005 continued

Purdue students playing a pickup game of basketball

Men's pickup game of basketball

2006

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC calendar

BCC calendar

2007

Purdue Black Alumni Organization begins its Annual Business and Leadership Summit as a way to promote networking among black alumni.

Purdue implements its new diversity initiative with dissemination of the document "Toward a Mosaic for Educational Equity: A Purdue Vision and Action Plan."

BCC program

2008

Black Cultural Center programs

BCC program

BCC program

2009

Purdue Black Alumni Organization commissions the film Black Purdue, about the African American experience at Purdue University.

G. Christine Taylor is appointed as Purdue’s first vice provost for diversity and chief diversity officer.

A memorial case is installed in Krannert honoring the legacy of Dr. Cornell Bell, diversity advocate and long-time director of Krannert’s Business Opportunity Program.

2010

An exhibit is displayed in Purdue Libraries, Archives and Special Collections entitled, "Purdue's Bellwether of Diversity: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Cornell A. Bell" from August - December 2010.

BCC calendar

Sources consulted

The Exponent (Purdue University Student Newspaper)

The Lafayette Journal and Courier (Greater Lafayette Area Newspaper

"Pictorial Record of African American Students at Purdue University." Compiled by Alexandra Cornelius.

Purdue Alumnus. (Purdue University Alumni Magazine)

Purdue Debris. (Purdue University Yearbook)

Sources consulted

"Board of Trustees Minutes." Purdue University.

Black Purdue, The African American Experience at Purdue University. DVD. Derek and Jamar Productions, 2009.

Why a Black Cultural Center? DVD. Directed by Jack Wertz. Southfield, MI: The Production People Ltd., 1971.