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A reflection from Yvette Alex-Assensoh, the Vice President for Equity and Inclusion at the University of Oregon:


The foundation of many of history’s most successful social justice movements is youth and labor activism. To put it another way, these movements capture national and sometimes even global attention because they demonstrate the burning desire that so many of us share for fair and equitable opportunities to thrive.


This is no different throughout the history of Black students and staff at the University of Oregon. From Wiley Griffon’s tenure as UO’s first Black employee to Maxine Maxwell’s fight to integrate the dorms to the UO Black Student Task Force’s efforts to transform the campus today, which included the naming of Unthank Hall and creation of the Lyllye Reynolds-Parker Black Cultural Center, there is an ongoing legacy of UO’s Black community tapping into love, authenticity, courage and empathy to push the institution forward.


This progress has not occurred without significant obstacles and roadblocks. For example, many of the demands made by the Black Student Task Force in 2015 mirrored those made by the UO Black Student Union in 1968.


With that in mind, how will you utilize love, authenticity, courage and empathy to ensure Black students’ concerns are heard and their needs are being met? Will you create space not just to hear hard truths, but to organize and act upon that information? How do you plan to support Black students in embracing their authentic selves? Will you be courageous enough to challenge not just yourself, but the rest of the campus community to support authentic Black spaces and self expression?


Eugene has made significant progress, even in recent years, in regards to racial justice. Nonetheless, there is still a long way to go. How will you build on the work of the long lineage of Black trailblazers in this city?

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Special Thanks:

Special thanks to Lauren Goss, public services librarian, UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives, for her help researching information and photography.

Historic photos, with the exceptions listed below, appear courtesy of UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives.

Maxine Maxwell The Beaver, 1929. Courtesy of Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Wiley Griffon, group shot at Friendly Hall. Courtesy of Lane County Historical Society

Contemporary photos of Lyllye Reynolds-Parker and Yvette Alex-Assensoh. Courtesy of UO Communications.

 

Sources:

Herman Brame, author of many works focused on early Black students at UO. Learn more by watching this video: Black History at UO.

Untold Stories: The Hidden History of the University of Oregon

A project by UO Libraries Special Collections & Archives & the Digital Scholarship Center

Learn more at https://hiddenhistory.uoregon.edu/


Racing to Change: Oregon's Civil Rights Years -- The Eugene Story

This Museum of National and Cultural History online exhibit chronicles the civil rights movement in Eugene, Ore., during the 1960s and 1970s.