Tagged: black history

A Step In the Right Direction: Honoring DeNorval Unthank, Jr.

This is the seventh of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.

DeNorval Unthank Jr. 1951, The Oregon Quarterly, Vol. 90 No. 3

Until recently, DeNorval Unthank Jr.’s remarkable life was a perfect example of how black history at the University of Oregon and Eugene has been suppressed. Despite graduating from the University of Oregon Architecture program in 1952, becoming an accomplished architect and professor at Oregon, and even designing prominent buildings throughout Eugene and on campus, his story remained, for the most part, untold. In fact, outside of historians and a select few community members, it is difficult to find someone in Eugene who is familiar with Unthank Jr.’s work, legacy, and strong connections to the University of Oregon. Fortunately, recent events and the building renaming process of Cedar Hall has brought Unthank Jr. well-deserved recognition. In late May, University of Oregon President Michael Schill announced that Cedar Hall would be named after Unthank Jr. after months of deliberating on potential name options ranging from Mabel Byrd to Unthank Jr. We are honored to highlight his life and career as a professor and prominent Eugene architect.

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New Faces: Similar Challenges

Anetra Brown 2013, photo courtesy of Anetra Brown

This is the sixth of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.

“It was the first time I noticed that being a black woman was going to be different here (Eugene).”

–Anetra Brown

2015 Oregon graduate and Black Student Union member Anetra Brown has remained in Eugene since graduation and has stayed connected with the University of Oregon through organizations like the Black Alumni Network, a group that has helped Brown feel more at home in Eugene. Anetra came to Eugene in September of 2011 to run on the track and field team, but academics were always her primary focus. Brown was born in San Francisco and moved to Indianapolis when she was 10. Upon her arrival to Eugene, Oregon’s lack of racial diversity was glaring. Although she describes the community as friendly, Brown says the feeling of isolation was undeniable. Through a recent oral history interview with Anetra for this project, this post highlights her specific experience at the University of Oregon and explores her reasons for choosing to remain in Eugene after graduation.

Brown said, “Living in the dorms was not the best experience, because I had a hard time finding girls I could relate to. It was the first time I noticed that being a black woman was going to be different here. Even things like hair — when I straightened my hair or even not washing my hair every day – and having to explain to roommates why I did that. It was the first time in my life where I felt different. I felt like I had to explain each thing I did. Or even not trying to come off as too aggressive in fear of being portrayed as the ‘angry black girl.’”

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President Clark: Contentious Times

President Clark meeting with students 1970, University Photographs, UA Ref 3, Oregon Digital Archive

This is the fifth of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.

President Robert D. Clark began his tenure at Oregon in 1969 and remained president until 1975. As far as students were concerned, Clark had large shoes to fill as the replacement to President Flemming, who had been incredibly popular with students from all walks of life and who especially championed the rights of minority students. Fortunately for Oregon students, President Clark came into the job with a wealth of experience, and was known as a progressive administrator. Prior to his presidential tenure at the University of Oregon, Clark served as the President of San Jose State University from 1964 to 1969. Students and faculty appreciated Clark’s ardent defense of civil rights issues, which included his unwavering support of Olympians John Carlos and Tommie Smith. This post will explore Clark’s relationship with student activists in his first years at the University of Oregon.

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Progress in the Face of Racism: 1960s UO President Arthur Flemming

This is the fourth of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to focus on Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.

UO President Arthur S Flemming, 1961

I began my current research on Black student activism on the University of Oregon campus by researching campus life in the 1960s, this led me to perhaps the campus’s most progressive president, Arthur S. Flemming. President Flemming was popular among students and less popular with conservative Oregonian’s and the university’s  board of trustees. In my interview with Herman Brame, one of the University of Oregon’s founding Black Student Union members, he offered insight into what it was like working with President Flemming firsthand. Brame’s experience provided the perfect contrast for my analysis of Flemming’s tenure.

President Flemming arrived on the Oregon campus in 1961 after serving as the United States Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Eisenhower from 1958-1961. Flemming quickly became popular on campus, particularly with students. He championed the rights of minority students and even defended the constitutional rights of the Communist Party, allowing representatives to speak on campus. Brame’s experience with working with UO President Flemming in the 1960s was incredibly positive. Brame, as well as many other activists, students and staff applauded President Flemming for being a progressive forward-thinker. In fact, President Flemming had an open door policy with the BSU, something that Brame confirmed in his interview.

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A Pillar of Hope: Dr. Ed Coleman’s Legacy

Ed Coleman, University Archives photograph collection, UA Ref 3

This is the third of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to focus on Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. In this specially released post we are celebrating the life of Professor Ed Coleman. Prior posts can be seen here.

“I’ve had urine thrown on me, I’ve been through the fire… I grew up living Jim Crow — I didn’t think about it then, it was just part of life, I know life shouldn’t be that way, but I don’t look back in anger.” –Dr. Coleman, Register-Guard Interview, June, 2016

Dr. Edwin Leon Coleman II left an enduring legacy at the University of Oregon and in the Eugene community as an educator, musician, civil rights activist, writer, community and campus organizer, and perhaps most importantly, a friend and advocate of students, faculty and community members of color. His passing on Friday, January 20, shocked circles across the state of Oregon. When it comes to civil rights and activism on the University of Oregon campus and in Eugene, Professor Coleman stands out as one of the most impactful Oregon faculty members of the late 20th century.

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