Black History Month

February is Black History Month, and many documents preserved in the Grand Valley State University Archives illustrate the valuable contributions made by African-Americans to the campus community, to West Michigan, and to the country as a whole.

For Grand Valley, the 1970s constituted a rich period for the founding of new organizations dedicated to supporting students of color, defending civil rights, and promoting a greater awareness of African-American history and culture.

(2) Fred Hampton Documentary for Think Black Month (Black Student Coalition)
Promotional poster for Fred Hampton documentary, Student Services Activities Files (GV 028.01)

In February 1973, the Black Student Union at Grand Valley hosted multiple on-campus screenings of a documentary about Fred Hampton, deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party at the time of his death in December 1969.

Through his work with the Black Panthers, Hampton was a founding member of the Rainbow Coalition, founded in the 1960s to unite many Chicago ethnic organizations in the struggle against discriminatory housing practices, police violence, and other abuses. In this capacity, Hampton worked alongside members of the Young Lords, a community organization formed in response to the displacement of working-class Latinos by gentrification and urban renewal programs.

(5) Young Lords Black Panther Party
Black Panthers & Young Lords Poster, Young Lords in Lincoln Park Collection (RHC-65)

 

By 1979, students at Grand Valley had established a campus chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The existing records of this student organization include a booklet of the Constitution and Bylaws to be observed by NAACP branches, published in 1978.

(1) NAACP Constitution and Bylaws
Constitution and Bylaws for NAACP Branch Organizations, Student Services Student Organization Files (GV 028.02)

 

(4) Black Alumni Association Formally Established 1978
Letter from GVSC President Lubbers to GVSC Black Alumni Association President John Cryer, Student Services Affirmative Action Files (GV 028.05)

The Grand Valley State Colleges Black Alumni Association was also established in 1979, earning commendation from GVSC President Arend “Don” Lubbers.

(3) GVSC Black Alumni Association Logo
Grand Valley State Colleges Black Alumni Association Letterhead Logo, Student Services Affirmative Action Files (GV 028.05)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Black History in Grand Rapids

(6) Paul Phillips GR Press April 29 1962
Cartoon of Paul Phillips from the Grand Rapids Press (April 29, 1962), Paul I. Phillips Reference Collection (RHC-19)

With regard to African-American history in Grand Rapids, the GVSU Special Collections are also home to the papers of Paul I. Phillips, Executive Director of the Grand Rapids Urban League from 1947 to 1976. Phillips became the first African-American to hold elected office in the city when he won a position on the Grand Rapids Charter Commission in 1951. He was also elected to the Grand Rapids Board of Education, on which he served from 1962 to 1970. Phillips received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Grand Valley in 1972, and was appointed by Governor William G. Milliken to the institution’s Board of Control in May 1976. He passed away late in December of that year.

For his distinguished record of public service, Phillips was the recipient of many posthumous honors. Several scholarship funds and local athletic awards came to bear his name. In 1979, the Kent County Board of Commissioners dedicated its new Social Services facility in Grand Rapids to his memory.

(8) Paul Phillips Building Dedication 1979
Paul I. Phillips Building Dedication Pamphlet in the Paul I. Phillips Reference Collection (RHC-19)
(7) Paul Phillips GR Press February 8 1964
Photo of Paul Phillips and colleagues from the Grand Rapids Press (February 8, 1964), Paul I. Phillips Reference Collection (RHC-19)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


From Grand Valley to Grand Rapids and beyond, these collections at the GVSU Special Collections & University Archives help to document the history and contributions of African-Americans in our communities.

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