The Black Student Union (BSU) at USF was founded in 1968, for reasons the founding members cited as “a sense of alienation and dissatisfaction” due to an “overwhelming white stratification at USF,” as reported by the Foghorn. Since then, the BSU has engaged in protests, rallies, donation drives, and more, to combat the white-centered culture they encountered on campus.
Driven by anti-war sentiments from the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, and growing racial tensions in America, the BSU stood as a politically-active student organization intended to mobilize the Black student population against racism on campus. Today, the legacy of the BSU continues as the organization unites USF’s community of Black students.
This week, the Foghorn took a look into the past to remember some of the BSU’s on-campus activism and documentation of their USF experience.
Collected from Gleeson Library’s digital archive, these articles give us only a glance into the history of the BSU, what they fought for, and what they endured. Despite the passage of time, Black students reported facing recurring problems on campus.
During a town hall meeting in 1968, the BSU took the stage to call out a dominating culture and ideology on campus. “USF seems to only want to do only those things that will make white Catholic America happy,” said Fred Ferguson. Speakers at the town hall voiced powerful sentiments of Black power, and the Black student movement at the time. “I’m not militant, but I’ve been taught that you should die for what you believe in,” said Wilbur Basie, about his commitment to seeing America undergo change for Black liberation and equality.
In a bi-weekly support group, members of the 1994 BSU discussed their experiences as it related to the theme of “Being Black in a Predominantly White Community,” and the feelings of isolation and alienation that arose for them while on campus.
Addressing feelings of powerlessness and isolation is a recurring theme amongst the BSU’s intended objectives, as seen decades before. In 1970, the BSU said, “Blacks believe they’re excluded from decision-making processes which affect their lives and community.” Without mending the issues, the support group of 1994 offered a space for students to talk about being a Black student at USF in a “friendly and supportive atmosphere.”
The BSU held a rally in Harney Plaza to kickoff Black History Month, the Foghorn reported in 1997. The event featured Black poets, speakers, and singers performing in a space created to uplift their creative works.
The rally of 1997 captured the founding BSU’s objective of highlighting Black artists. In a 1968 Foghorn article, the BSU President Fred Ferguson explained the BSU’s establishment as encouraged by “a surge in the Black community towards the arts.”