Activist Student Groups

Afro-American Association

In late 1965, a group of African American students founded a chapter of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Northeastern. Even though SNCC was extremely influential nationally, there were students at Northeastern who did not feel that the organization’s philosophy would lead to change on campus. In the fall of 1966, these students broke away to found the Afro-American Association (AAA).

What bonded the students involved in the AAA were their concerns with the lack of African American scholarships, courses, and faculty at Northeastern. They were also frustrated that they were required to pay student center fees of $12.50 per quarter, when they did not feel welcome to participate in campus activities.

The AAA included African, West-Indian, and African American students from Northeastern and other local institutions, including Wentworth Institute of Technology and Simmons College. The group was unique on campus because it included students from several colleges and supporters from the community. The preamble to the AAA constitution states, “Believing that Black people who are interested in Black solidarity, Black pride, and Black self-determination should work together in order to approach these ideals, we have incorporated ourselves under the name of the Afro-American Association.” During the AAA’s first meeting, held in the Ell Student Center, Rick Johnson and Delano B. Farrar ‘70, two of the first Ford Scholars, were elected co-chairs.

"Black Students Request Meeting Administration"
"Blacks Make Steady Gains"
Lance, Peter
Northeastern University News

In the spring of 1966, members of the AAA decided that increasing political awareness of the African American students should be part of their focus. The Internal Education Committee was formed to accomplish this goal.

The AAA also reached out to many organizations within the community. They worked with the Bromley-Heath Tenant’s Organization and convinced Northeastern to start cooperative work placements and work-study jobs with the tenant group. A relationship was also formed with the anti-poverty offices of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD).

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. brought home the realization to members of the AAA that the needs of Northeastern’s African American students were still not being met; they decided that reform was nonnegotiable, so AAA members played a prominent role in drafting and presenting the list of 13 demands to President Knowles on May 3, 1968. Although university administrators accepted the demands, the AAA still felt that Northeastern’s African American students needed more. In the winter of 1968, the AAA formed a committee that promoted establishing a black studies department and an Afro-American center at Northeastern.