Black History Month Kickoff highlights decades of history at Elon

The Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education partnered with Archives and Special Collections to host the official beginning of Elon's Black History Month festivities.

More than 50 years of black history was on display as the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Diversity Education hosted the first event in a series of Black History Month celebrations at Elon.

The CREDE partnered with Elon’s Archives and Special Collections to host the Black History Month Kickoff at the Moseley Center on Monday. Students, faculty and staff were invited to the event, which featured a pop-up museum of letters, photographs and other materials that detailed events that began with the 1963 desegregation of campus and spanned to key moments in black history during the present day.

A variety of materials were on display to commemorate black history at Elon.

“It’s important that we think about how we can document everyone who was here,” said Archivist and Assistant Librarian Libby Coyner. “I think that gives students an opportunity to feel like they are represented in the history of the institution.”

The museum commemorated important milestones and people in the university’s history, including Glenda Phillips Hightower, Elon’s first black student, and Eugene Perry ’69, the school’s first black graduate. The display also brought attention to the formation of Elon’s Black Cultural Society, student-led protests that urged administrators to offer a Black Studies curriculum in 1969 and the hiring of Elon’s first black professor, Wilhelmina Boyd.

It was an opportunity for community members of all backgrounds to learn about the past and present of the black experience at Elon.

“I think it’s a great idea symbolically to be able to walk through and see what blackness is and has been at Elon and look at themselves as current students, faculty and staff and ask themselves how they might want to contribute to this legacy,” said Brandon Bell, assistant director of the CREDE.

The pop-up museum marked the beginning of Elon’s Black History Month Celebration. Throughout the month of February, the CREDE and other campus partners will host a variety of events meant to celebrate Black History Month and help the campus engage in important conversations.

Bell says the theme of this year’s celebration, “Re(en)Vision: Blackness in 2020,” celebrates the ways we are all actively shaping and contributing to notions of blackness in the present, while being mindful of and honoring the historic events and figures of the past that impact us all.

Students, faculty and staff attended the event, which marked the beginning of Elon’s Black History Month Celebration.

“I think it’s a good chance for students, based on the theme, to re-envision what blackness means to them and how they want to live and navigate their blackness here at Elon,” Bell said.

Sara Nderitu ’20, a CREDE student coordinator, says Elon’s Black History Month Celebration allows the community to come together and highlight the history that made the university what it is today. She says it is important that events like these allow students to speak openly about their experiences and receive the support they need from the campus community.

“It’s one of the most important things when it comes to making your college experience a good experience – just feeling like you have a support system, people who care for you and people you care for, and just feeling welcome,” Nderitu said. “That is what’s been so meaningful about Elon, just finding my friends and having a good support system has really aided me over the years.”

The series of Black History Month events includes discussions, performances and other gatherings to celebrate black history at Elon. For a full list of this month’s events, click here.