The Onyx

In the winter of 1971, conflict between Northeastern’s African-American Institute and African American students reached a peak. Embroiled within the controversy was the African American student newsletter, Panga Nyeusi, which ceased publication in January 1972.

Though the controversy left some skeptical and apathetic, a few of Northeastern’s African American students felt that the campus still needed a publication to serve as their voice. Harvey Vetstein, Dean of Student Activities, and others suggested that the students join the university’s two established publications, Northeastern News and Northeastern Today; however the students were not satisfied with this option. They did not simply want a section within a publication; they wanted a paper that was designed for them and produced by them. So, four members of Panga Nyeusi’s old staff, Robert Gittens ‘75, Ileen Dotson ‘74, Harold Hunte ‘76, and Ted Thomas ‘74, decided to issue another African American publication.

Because Dean Vetstein had refused the request for an African American publication, students proposed to the new director of the African-American Institute, Gregory T. Ricks, that the institute support the publication. Although the institute’s budget was not large, Ricks agreed to fund the publication. Students worked feverishly to recruit staff throughout the summer of 1972. During a meeting in early September 1972, Ted Thomas was appointed editor-in-chief; Ileen Dotson, associate editor and ad manager; Joyce Clark, managing editor; Harold Hunte, layout and photography editor; Barbara Ellis, literary editor; and Donna Deans, administrative assistant.

First Issue, 1972
Second Issue
First Anniversary Issue

Wilbur Jenkins, an engineering senior, named the newspaper The Onyx because onyx is a stone that, in its natural state, throws off various bands of colors. The Onyx, similar to the stone, could have relevance for everyone, according to the angle from which it is viewed. On November 3, 1972, the first issue of The Onyx appeared. In no time, letters of approval from staff, students and administrators were delivered to The Onyx’s office.

Feeling a strong connection to the African American community in Boston and beyond, The Onyx staff decided to include local, national and international news. The Onyx covered topics such as the crowning of Northeastern’s first African American homecoming queen, the Boston busing crisis, and the massacre of innocent people in Mozambique by the Portuguese. The Onyx staff reported on rallies led by radical black activist and philosopher, Angela Davis, and a poetry reading by Nikki Giovanni. With resolve and vision, The Onyx strived to accomplish its goal of becoming the African American voice at Northeastern.