The importance of the Center for Black Studies


Zulfiqar Ahmed

An aerial view of the Center for Black Studies. The Center celebrated 5o years in 2021 (Zulfiqar Ahmed | Northern Star)

The university campus is filled with departments and buildings that offer an eclectic array of classes and programs, but in honor of Black History Month It would feel appropriate to put a spotlight on a section that doesn’t get a lot of attention. The Center for Black Studies is a place on NIU’s campus that is precious to the student population and houses all of the Black studies classes that NIU is currently offering.

The Center for Black Studies was first founded in the fall of 1971, back when there were no designated buildings for Afrocentric studies on campus, said Christopher Mitchell, the programming advisor for the Center for Black Studies.

“Before that those classes were housed in halls like Zulauf and DuSable, which didn’t serve the Black community,” Mitchell said.

The center allowed Black students on campus to have a place where they can gather and socialize, engage in topical discussion surrounding the community and to simply relax with like-minded people. 

“We talk about things in the Black Studies department that we never learned in school,” said Liza Dewhite, a freshman sociology major. 

The center also hosts various Black-led organizations, such as AAMP (African American Mentor Program) and BMI (Black Male Initiative). The latter of the two boasts a 100% graduation rate, according to Mitchell.

“The Center allows me to express myself and state my opinions without being judged or misunderstood,” said Shemar Lewis, a freshman business major.

The Center for Black Studies has also played an active role in hosting annual Black history events to celebrate the Black community at NIU. Last year, COVID-19 put a dent in the event programming of the Center for Black Studies, but this year, they have already hosted a showing of “The Wiz” at the Egyptian Theatre on Wednesday. 

At 7 p.m. on Feb. 17 the Four Poets, One Mic organization will present a poetry jam in room 126 of Gabel Hall, meant to celebrate the Black community and call to action social change. 

The Center for Black Studies is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. To contact the Center for Black Studies visit their website here or call 815-753-2495.