Establishing a Black Cultural Center at ISU

Following the tumultuous summer of 1968 (see the previous blog post on the formation of the Black Student Organization), a number of black students left Iowa State, including several leaders of the Black Student Organization (BSO). Due to this fact, the BSO essentially ceased to exist as a student organization during the fall of 1968. This hiatus was short-lived. In December 1968 members of the black student population reformed the Black Student Organization under the leadership of Larry Salter, an Aerospace Engineering student from Freeport, Illinois.

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Larry Salter, president of the BSO in 1969, was also a member of the Cardinal Key Honor Society as featured in the 1970 Bomb.

One of the goals of the reconstituted BSO was to advocate for a facility where black students could gather together and socialize. The plan for the center was soon expanded to also provide resources and organize events that promoted a better understanding of black culture. During the spring of 1969, BSO members and Assistant Dean of Students Tom Goodale identified several off-campus properties as possible homes for such a center, but there was still one major obstacle to overcome.

The group had to raise money. In August 1968, the non-profit organization Black Cultural Center, Inc. (BCC), was formed under the leadership of board members William Bell and Neil Harl of the ISU faculty and Judge Luther Glanton, Jr., of Des Moines. This organization was established as a vehicle to raise funds for and manage the operations of a black cultural center in Ames. In September 1969, members of BCC, Inc., and the BSO were likely disappointed, but probably not surprised, when President Parks declined to offer University funding for the purchase of a center. However, Parks strongly encouraged members of the community to help the students acquire the necessary resources to acquire a facility. Community members stepped up as did the student body: the VEISHEA Central Committee provided a $2,000 grant and the Government of the Student Body followed with a $2,400 appropriation.

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Article from the Iowa State Daily announcing the acquisition of the Black Cultural Center. (RS 7/5/4, Black Cultural Center records)

Just a few weeks later, on October 8, 1969, the board of directors of BCC, Inc., announced that a property in Ames had been obtained for $30,000. The house, located at 517 Welch Avenue, was purchased with the support of donations from University organizations, private subscriptions, and a loan from the Alumni Achievement Fund (now part of the ISU Foundation). The organization took ownership of the property on January 1, 1970. For the next nine months, students, faculty, and members of the Ames community worked together to prepare the Black Cultural Center for its grand opening.

The Black Cultural Center was officially dedicated on Sunday, September 27, 1970, in conjunction with the dedication of Carver Hall. Since then, the BCC has offered space for all students to socialize and learn about black culture though the publication of newsletters and sponsored events and programming. In January 2017, the BCC was named after George Jackson, a longtime ISU administrator and champion for students of color. Today, the center is operated under the umbrella of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and is a recognized organization affiliated with the University.

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An identified student speaks with President Parks and BCC Inc. Board Member William Bell at the dedication of the Black Cultural Center, September 27, 1970. (University Photograph Collection, RS 7/5/G, Box 496)

There are a number of resources available to researchers interested in learning more about the history of the BCC. News clippings related to the Black Student Organization’s efforts to establish the center can be found in RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Organizations. Files related to the Black Cultural Center can be found in RS 7/5/4, Black Cultural Center records. And of course, there are always yearbooks and other student publications to peruse. If you are interested in learning more, please stop by Special Collections and University Archives. We would love to see you!

 


#TBT WiSE

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(University Photographs box 835)

With the popularity of Hidden Figures, it is a great time to honor and remember Iowa State’s Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE).  This photo was taken in 1962 of a female graduate student working in the chemistry laboratory.  The photograph is labeled with a date, but the cat eye glasses would have been a clue for a time period as well!  To learn more about the WISE archive we have here, view our digital collection, search our archives collection, or stop by the reading room!

 


#TBT Putting the “Can” in “Canning”

Did you know it’s National Canned Food Month? Canned food may not be the most glamorous of edibles, but the canning process can be deceptively tricky (exploding fruit, anyone?). There are countless guides on how to can various foods on the internet, including these from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Educating the public on canning procedures is nothing new for Extension – they were giving demonstrations on that 90 years ago! Below are some photos from such demonstrations:

Process of canning beans, 1928. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1368.

Process of canning beans, 1928. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1368.

Canning demonstration, 1938. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1396.

Canning demonstration, 1938. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1369.

Canned meat from a canning demonstration, 1934. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1369.

Canned meat from a canning demonstration, 1934. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1369.

Canned vegetables from a canning demonstration, 1938. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, box 1369.

Canned vegetables from a canning demonstration, 1938. University Photographs, RS 16/3/F, Box 1369.

Want to learn more about canning? The Gertrude L. Sunderlin Papers contain studies on canning dating back to the 1920s. We also have a wealth of Extension publications, some of which may contain tips on canning and recipes. Stop by sometime!


Chocolate-Covered Traditions

How do you plan on showing your sweetheart that you care about them this Valentine’s Day? Flowers are a popular choice, poetry is always nice, but why not embrace the little known Iowa State Tradition of giving a 5 pound box of chocolate!  Iowa State students during the 1940s and 1950s announced monumental events in their lives by exchanging different sizes of boxed
chocolate. Pinning, the act of a Greek man giving his fraternity pin to his steady girlfriend, was celebrated by exchanging a 2 pound box of chocolate while engagements called for a 5 pound box, wedding announcements came with a 10 pound box, and pregnancies were announced by a 15 pound box (RS 0/16/1, Traditions and Myths of Iowa State, box 1, folder 5).

So where would all of this chocolate go? It would be passed out during a ‘pound party’ where women would surprise their sorority sisters or floor-mates with their announcement. Women planned out this surprise party down to the very last details; some women planned lunches, ordered embroidered napkins and photo holders, and even used color schemes to represent the couple’s fraternity or sorority colors.

Local Ames businesses, such as Your Treat Shop formerly on Lincoln Way, would advertise their candy shops in Iowa State’s newspapers by announcing the engagements of couples who purchased pounds of candy at their shops.

Advertisement in the March 1950 Iowa State Scientist. Image of a smiling couple at a candy counter, ad reads "Your Treat Shop salutes Mary Alice Connolly and Neil Hansen who announced their engagement with five pounds of chocolate from Your Treat Shop for your five or ten pound party or for any occasion, buy the best of candies at Your Treat Shop, 2526 Lincoln Way.

Your Treat Shop advertisement in the March 1950 Iowa State Scientist (RS 0/16/1, Traditions and Myths of Iowa State Records, box 1, folder 5).

Although this tradition died out in the late 1960s, sorority women still celebrate engagements and pinning with candle passings, often still a surprise to the chapter.

If you find yourself alone this Valentine’s Day, you can also celebrate with what students called a “lemon party,” where women who spent the four years unattached would share a box of lemon drops instead of chocolate.

Today’s blog post was written by Madison Vandenberg, our student assistant. You can read her other blog posts here: https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/author/madiepatie/. You can read an earlier post on sweet traditions at Iowa State here: https://isuspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2016/02/11/cypix-sweet-tradition/.


Formation of the Black Student Organization at ISU

For this look back at the 1960s I’ve decided to explore the origins of the Black Student Organization at ISU (now the Black Student Alliance). Not only is it a story that is not well-known to me, but I suspect it is not familiar to most people now at Iowa State. It seems almost all Iowa Staters are familiar with the story of George Washington Carver, Iowa State’s first African American student and faculty member, and the tragedy of Iowa State’s first black athlete, Jack Trice. After doing some research into our student organizations files here in the archives, I found that the story of the formation of the Black Student Organization at ISU is just as interesting and incredibly relevant to students on campus today.

The 1960s at Iowa State started off much as the 1950s left off. Strict rules were still in place regulating conduct and social interaction of women students. Students were separated into different dormitories with men on one side of campus and the women on the other. However, as the 1960s wore on, student perceptions began to change. Like in much of the country, students began to question the war in Vietnam, female students began to push back against gender barriers, and students of color began to speak out against racism and prejudice.

In the summer of 1967, the faculty and staff newspaper, News of Iowa State, ran an article reporting on a study completed by two ISU journalism students regarding the racial climate at Iowa State. The findings, authored by Pat Alford, identified as a “Negro coed from Charlotte, N.C.,” and Maurine Foster, simply identified as a Weldon, Iowa native, were both journalism students at Iowa State. The results of their study found that the racial climate at Iowa State at that time was “relatively favorable.” During those years, the University attempted to eliminate overt discrimination. Students interviewed in the study didn’t believe they would be denied membership to student groups, but with an enrollment of around 125, black students largely felt they were being left out of the mainstream of college life. (This may help explain why it is so difficult to find a photograph in our collections of an African-American student at Iowa State prior to 1970 unless he was involved in athletics.)

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Article from the Iowa State Daily, April 6, 1968, reporting on the demonstration by a group of students at the Memorial Union the previous day.

This favorable view of campus race relations abruptly changed following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. The following day, black students on campus held a demonstration in the Commons of the Memorial Union. According to a report by the Iowa State Daily (April 6, 1968), a group of approximately 40 students filed into the Union, toasted to “black unity on campus” and then dropped and shattered their drinking glasses on the floor, overturned their tables and chairs, and quietly left. Following the demonstration, a statement was issued and signed by the “Afro-American Students of Iowa State University,” a group that formed the night before under the leadership of student Bruce Ellis. The students adopted a constitution on April 23, 1968 and officially became the Black Student Organization.

In early May, students and administrators were interviewed by the Iowa State Daily (May 3, 1968) for an article on campus race relations. One of those students was Pat Alford, the student from Charlotte. The article identifies some of the common forms of discrimination blacks faced at Iowa State. These included overt forms such as insensitive signs and symbols used by student groups and the denial of access to certain student groups based on skin color. It is interesting that these statements seem to conflict with what was reported a year earlier. The article noted the psychological burdens of being a person of color in a community where the vast majority of students and faculty are white. Black students also felt they were missing out on social interactions at Iowa State. According to one estimate, black male students outnumbered black female students at Iowa State 15 to 1, resulting in many black male students traveling to Des Moines to find a date.

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1967 Iowa State football team (Bomb, 1968, page 119)

Within weeks, the Black Student Organization would take their concerns to University administration. On May 20, 1968, the black athletes of Iowa State, with the full support of the Black Student Organization, issued eight grievances to the Athletic Council. The students asked for racial representation in the coaching staff and administration of the athletics department, reprimands or removal of three coaches and trainers they accused of discriminatory treatment of black athletes, more leniency for all athletes in terms of academics and living requirements, an allowance for black athletes to seek employment while on full scholarship, and a request that the ISU community use the words Black Students or Afro-Americans in place of the term Negro.

The initial response from the Athletic Council, signed by council chairman John Mahlstede, did not exactly impress the students. Dated two weeks later on June 5, the response was carefully worded, but it was clear that the Council did not find any evidence of discriminatory actions by the coaches or in its hiring practices. Not surprisingly, this announcement did not end the controversy.

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The first page from a letter, dated May 20, 1968, submitted to the Athletic Council on behalf of the black student athletess. (See file labeled Black Student Organization – Athletic Council Issue in RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Affairs)

By the end of June, President W. Robert Parks asked that the University Human Relations Committee conduct a separate investigation into the grievances. This report, presented just two weeks later, recognized that discrimination almost assuredly existed on campus and that “the need for change in behavior on the part of individual members of the University community is crucial.” The report did not charge any individuals with discriminatory actions. It did, however, strongly encourage the hiring of a black football coach, a recommendation that coach Johnny Majors fulfilled when he hired coach Ray Green in the spring of 1969.

These actions did not satisfy everyone. At least seven students carried through on their promise to leave Iowa State if and when the Athletic Council did not comply with the eight grievances. Bruce Ellis, president of the Black Student Organization, was one of these students along with two football players. Though these students did not immediately effect the change they hoped to, their actions did initiate a conversation about race and inclusivity that in many ways continues today. They also helped foster a growing awareness among members of the ISU community that racism and discrimination were present on the Iowa State campus and that the entire community was responsible for addressing the concerns raised by black students of Iowa State.

More information on the early years of the Black Student Organization (now known as the Black Student Alliance) is available in Special Collections and University Archives in collection RS 22/3/0/1, Multicultural Student Organizations. Unfortunately, the black student experience at Iowa State is largely underrepresented in the archives. Most of the materials that are available to historians and researchers consist of newspaper clippings or files from campus administration. These records are often incomplete and leave gaps in the historical record. We welcome collection materials (i.e. photographs, letters, flyers, etc.) from alumni that might help document the experience of black students at Iowa State.


#TBT A Painting Party @ISUDesign

This weeks #TBT photo comes from the College of Design. Pictured here is a group of students working on their projects for an art class. While the photo is undated, it looks like it was taken in the 1950s (note the hair and clothing styles, not to mention the saddle shoes!). For more information on the College of Design (which wasn’t a formal college until 1979), take a look at some of our collections! We also have many more photos of students in art classes, as well as photos of students’ art pieces.

Students working on their art projects, undated. University Photographs, RS 26/2/F, Box 2076.

Students working on their art projects, undated. University Photographs, RS 26/2/F, Box 2076.

 


Report of foreign seeds and plants received at Ames, 1907 to 1914

One of my duties is cataloging old bachelors theses in the University Archives. I have worked my way up to 1916 with lots more to go. At some point ISU stopped generating so many theses at the bachelor level of study, but there’s no end in sight for me, so it’s a good thing some of the theses are interesting. I have blogged about them before: see my July, 2016 item entitled In 1913, students had designs on the Campanile’s chimes.

In 1915, a horticulture student named John Hampden Allison wrote his thesis on efforts to bring plants from around the world to Ames. I was intrigued to learn of the existence of the “Ames Plant Introduction Garden.” Receiving shipments of plants was just the beginning since the point was to grow and study them for a variety of reasons. I had not realized there was such a thing as the United States Office of Seed and Plant Introduction, either. “Invasive species” come to mind when I think about such matters from my non-farmer, non-horticulturalist perspective 100+ years after Allison submitted his thesis. In fact these plant introduction activities were admirably thoughtful. We use plant matter for innumerable purposes from food to medicine to building materials. It stands to reason that science and commerce would benefit from ongoing systematic programs of this type.

Nowadays we are beginning to take genetic engineering of plants and animals for granted. It still seems futuristic, but genetic engineering is a well-established means of modifying organisms’ traits to better suit human needs. In 1915 genetic engineering was science fiction; selective breeding and the acquisition of desirable variants or alternative species were the only games in town. Hence the existence of seed “banks” and “libraries” and places like the Ames Plant Introduction Garden.

Report of Foreign Seeds and Plants Received at Ames, 1907 to 1914 / J. H. Allison. 1915.

Report of Foreign Seeds and Plants Received at Ames, 1907 to 1914 / J. H. Allison. 1915. Page 7. ISU Spec. Coll. and Univ. Archives. Call no. C Ob 1915 Allison.

As you can see from the photo caption above, a major area of interest was how various species would respond to Iowa’s climate. It is unclear whether the 1911-1912 winter low temperature of -35° should be interpreted as Fahrenheit or Celsius, but either one would be lower than expected. Weather Channel data for Ames (as found at Wikipedia) states that the “highest recorded temperature was 102° F (39° C) in 1988 and the lowest was −28° F in 1996.” For comparison a list entitled Des Moines Climate 1878-Present gives a lowest daily minimum of -30 [sic] on January 5 of 1884. Not having time for further research into this subtopic, I conclude that Allison’s cited reading of -35° is Fahrenheit and is plausible, but only as a record-breaking historical anomaly.

Allison contextualizes the photo further on page 6. He describes Amygdalus davidiana as “a wild peach native to China” that came to Ames by way of Chico, California. The story is that the Ames Plant Introduction Garden had a “peach orchard of hardy native varieties [that] was practically killed out” by the extreme winter lows of 1911-1912 but that the Chinese peach trees (Amygdalus davidiana) “withstood the temperature like oaks.” Good to know.

Other topics are covered in Allison’s book as well – greenhouse versus outdoor cultivation results, characteristics of fruit, potential for hybridization, et cetera. The text is not particularly scientific in itself, but I can see its usefulness as a readable summary of its subject matter.

Working with this book (and then blogging about it) is a good example of what it’s like to be a cataloger in special collections. There is no time for me to learn about all the diverse topics that I encounter. I have to learn enough to create bibliographic descriptions, and maybe the occasional blog entry, but if I spend too much time learning about unfamiliar subjects my productivity suffers. In conclusion, I hope I have done justice to J. H. Allison’s thesis and related topics. As always, readers should feel free to comment. Share your knowledge or life experience in relation to my themes.

UPDATE: In comments, reader Brian Mayer provided information about the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station and a link to its website. It’s gratifying to know that the NCRPIS and affiliated organizations remain committed to “preserving and providing plant genetic resources for agriculture since 1948.” Thanks, Brian.

 


Basketball: Iowa State versus Kansas 60 Years Ago #TBT

Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas #13)

From University Photograph Collection, 24/5/G, box 1817

This Saturday, January 14th, marks the 60th anniversary of a well-remembered game in Iowa State’s basketball history: Iowa State versus Kansas. Both teams had players which would go on to have major professional basketball careers:  Gary Thompson (Iowa State, #20) and Wilt Chamberlain (Kansas, #13). In the photograph above, Chamberlain is attempting to make a basket while Thompson guards on the floor.

It was an exciting game, with Iowa State beating Kansas, 39-37. At the very end, Don Medsker made the winning basket. The game was Chamberlain’s first loss in college basketball. In celebration of the win, Iowa State fans invaded the Armory’s floor after the game.

A number of images documenting the game are now available in Digital Collections. Although we don’t have a program from the game (please contact us if you’d be willing to donate one!), we do have news clippings from that year in RS 24/5/0/0, box 1, folder 1, a folder of materials on Gary Thompson (RS 21/7/1), and the book “Gary Thompson, All-American” by Gary Offenburger.  Additional men’s basketball records are also available in the University Archives.


# TBT Toboggan Race

Currently there is very little snow on the ground and it’s a windy but sunny 37 degrees Fahrenheit. However, today’s Throwback Thursday picture shows an entirely different scene. Below shows a snowy day, likely in late January, with students having a toboggan race during the 1949 Winter Carnival. Check out our previous post about the Winter Carnival.

students pulling other students on toboggans, snowy landscape

From University Photographs RS 22/7/G (box 1670)

The reading room is closed tomorrow and Monday January 2. We are back to our regular hours Monday-Friday beginning Tuesday, January 3. Drop by and see us!


A Winter’s Day on Campus #TBT

Old Main in the snow, 1899. University Photographs, RS 4/8/J, Box 348

Old Main in the snow, 1899. University Photographs, RS 4/8/J, Box 348

Winter is officially here! Whether you love it or hate it, you have to admit that the snow can be quite beautiful. This photo provides just one example. Behind the snow-frosted trees are two buildings – the English Office Building (home of the President’s Office) on the left and Old Main on the right. The English Office Building was located roughly where Carver Hall now stands.

If you want to see a great view of wintry campus while staying out of the elements, stop by our reading room! While you’re here, you can take a look materials from any of our great collections. Stay warm out there!