3 jan 1968 & wendy wilson, vp of DCPS BSU
#OTD-ish Wednesday 3 January 1968* Wendy Wilson, a junior at Coolidge HS, co-founded a city-wide Black Student Union for DC Public Schools. She was vice-president and Dale Ashton, a student at Eastern HS, was president.
Why would students in a school system that was 90% black find it necessary to organize a Black Student Union?
In order to work together to demand a more black-centered education, a more progressive education, black history classes, ending draft recruitment within the schools, to organize anti-war protests and more. (The 26 April story will discuss the BSU's anti-war march and rally.)
Wilson shared that Stokely Carmichael was instrumental in encouraging and organizing students to form a BSU. Carmichael lectured often on history and politics at schools.
Wilson also shared that students were wholeheartedly supported and galvanized by other organizations and institutions in the city, including the New School of Afro-American Thought (founded by Gaston Neal and Don Freeman), where she interned; the New Thing Art & Architecture Center, where she remembers participating in an art exhibit. She also has fond memories of Ralph Featherstone (Drum & Spear bookstore) and remembers that the Black Liberation Army was a big deal.
Wilson's mentor was Texeira Nash, an artist and student at Howard University in 1968. (She headed the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities in the early 1970s.) Wilson was a student at the Corcoran's Saturday arts program, which is what the image references.
I welcome your comments below. Were you a member of the city-wide Black Student Union? Were you a member of a chapter at your high school? Do you remember Wendy Wilson and/or others mentioned in the story? Please share below or contact privately here.
Thank you to Wendy Wilson-Fall, now a university professor, for sharing her memories and ideas with me in several phone conversations.
photo source: Jan Bailey collection, Smithsonian Jan Bailey (1942-2010) was a member of SNCC, a draft resister and a wonderful person. The 18 January story will discuss his decision to publicly resist the draft.
I wish I had been able to look through a 1968 Coolidge High School yearbook. None of the area libraries/archives seem to have one. If you have one or two, consider donating it to the Sumner School Museum & Archives, the official archives of DC Public Schools. Kimberly Springle is the executive director.
*Please note that the BSU was founded in the first week or so of 1968. The Friday 16 February 1968 edition of the Hilltop, Howard University's weekly student-run paper, featured an article by Bobby Isaac titled, "DC High School Students Form Black Student Union," p. 4. He states that the BSU had formed five weeks prior.