Untold Stories Guide

Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center

When Oregon became a state in 1859, the constitution banned slavery, yet it also excluded Blacks from permanently settling. And, in the 1920s, there was a resurgence of the KKK across the state. (1) Fortunately, racial discrimination on the state level and on campus, has come a long way. The Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center (BCC) is an example of that progress. The mission of the BCC is to support OSU’s African and African American students, as well as to educate the campus and local community on issues and histories pertaining to African Americans. (2)

The BCC officially opened in April 1975, yet the roots of its establishment date to 1968 with the formation of the Black Student Union (BSU) and the group’s walk-out the next year. (3) In the early 1970s, the BSU and groups representing Native American and Latino/a students on campus fought for equality. At first, a location was established for all cultural groups on campus; however, as time progressed these groups founded cultural centers of their own, including BCC. (4) The BCC was named after Lonnie B. Harris, the first director of OSU’s Educational Opportunities Program. Harris was recognized and honored for his work in promoting retention and increasing African American student recruitment, which played a fundamental role in the establishment of the BCC. (5)

Creating a strong and unified community for African American students, as well as educating the broader community, is a year-round endeavor for the BCC; however, there are certain times of year for special events and activities hosted or supported by the Center. At the beginning of each fall term the BCC hosts an open house for the OSU and local community, and in January and February the BCC celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. week and Black History Month. (6) The BCC also reflects and supports national endeavors; for example, in October 1995, the BCC hosted a special meeting reflecting upon the “Million Man March,” a day when African American men gathered at the nation’s capital to advocate for equality. (7) It is through these and countless other events, as well as awareness gatherings and alumni support that the BCC is strengthened. It continues to provide support and resources for African American students on campus, giving them a sense of pride and community.

Although the BCC and African American students have faced much opposition over the years, the BCC and its supporters were able to prevail during times of trial and continue to fight for a positive image and for the rights of the African American students on campus. (8) In the spring of 2015, the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center celebrated its newly constructed space. For many decades the center has been an integral aspect of our campus here at OSU, and will continue to prove itself resilient and powerful no matter what obstacles it may encounter.

Photos and Sources Cited

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