HISTORY OF BFSA
The Black Faculty & Staff Association of The University of Alabama was established in the early 1970’s. Founding members included Dr. Archie Wade, then Assistant Professor of Physical Education, and Dr. Joffre Whisenton, who in 1966 became the first African American to earn a doctorate from The University of Alabama. Dr. Whisenton went on to serve as the President of Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana from 1985 until 1988. Dr. Wade retired from the University in 2000.
BFSA’s mission is to serve as an advocate for educational equity, with emphasis on African-American students and the professional needs of its members. The organization promotes and provides opportunities for networking among individuals and groups to articulate mutual concerns and advance educational opportunity.
BFSA became most active during 1974 when black students, led by Cleo Thomas and Sylvester Jones, marched on campus to protest the Board of Trustees’ and the Administration’s perceived racist practices.
Former UA President, Dr. David Matthews, recognized the need to involve black faculty to address student calls for change. He solicited the assistance of black faculty to help black student leaders articulate their concerns and to identify challenges and to work with administrators to alleviate problems and to make the campus a more inviting community for black students.
During that turbulent decade, the Black Faculty and Staff Association, along with the Afro-American Association, worked diligently to improve the conditions on campus for black students, staff, and faculty. Among the many achievements of the two organizations during that time were the following:
• a commitment from the administration to bring more black speakers and entertainers to campus;
• steps to locate sorority and fraternity housing on campus; and
• a plan to increase the number of black faculty and staff
In those early years, numerous individuals worked tirelessly to ensure black faculty, staff, and students had a voice at the Capstone. While we cannot recount all of the names, we will mention some individuals who were instrumental: Dr. Whisenton, Dr. Wade, Attorney Donald Watkins, Dr. Arthur Dunning, who currently is the Vice Chancellor for International Programs and Outreach with the University of Alabama System Office. Dr. Leon Chestang, past Dean of UA’s School of Social Work; Dr. Harold Bishop, one of the first black professors at UA who passed away in 2005; Dr. Chuck Owens,
Dr. George Jones, Mr. A. J. Range, Dr. Lena Prewitt, the first black female faculty in the College of Commerce and Business Administration, Dr. Dorsey Blake, the first chairman of the African-American studies program and tireless advisor for UA black students in the 1970’s and Mrs. Ernestine Tucker. Mrs. Tucker, who served as president of the BFSA for more than seven years, was a leader in solidifying the Association’s involvement with black students on this campus.
In 1992, Dr. Charles Nash became the first African-American to hold the position of Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for The University of Alabama System.
October 13, 1995, was truly a momentous day in the history of BFSA, as the Association announced the endowment of the Vivian Malone-Jones Scholarship. Jones and fellow African-American student James Hood made history when they enrolled at The University of Alabama on June 11, 1963. Two years later, in 1965, Jones became the first black to graduate from The University of Alabama, paving the way for thousands of other black students who would later earn degrees from the Capstone. Mrs. Jones passed away in 2005.
In 2004, history was also made when Dr. Samory Pruitt, former BFSA president, became the first African American to be named a permanent vice president at The University. Samory serves as the Vice President for Community Affairs. Dr. Charles Brown was the first African American to serve as an Assistant and Associate Vice President at The University. He was also the first to serve as a Vice President when he served as the Interim Vice President for Student Affairs during the 1997 - 1998 academic year.
BFSA continues to have a strong presence at The University of Alabama. While
change is slow, the Association remains committed to pursuing equity and
excellence at all levels. We continue to stress the importance of diversity in
our student body, faculty composition, and administrative profile so that the
University will one day reach its full potential as the University of choice for
students, staff, and faculty of color.
Originally Compiled by Brenda F. Elliott, Fall 1994
Early History Courtesy of Dr. Harold Bishop
Last update: Spring 2008