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.
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
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.