The Black Faculty & Staff Association at The University of Alabama was established in the early 1970’s with a mission to serve as an advocate for educational equity, with emphasis on African-American students and the professional needs of its members. BFSA blossomed during in 1974 when black students, led by Cleo Thomas and Sylvester Jones, marched to protest perceived lingering racist policies and practices by the Board of Trustees’ and the Administration.
Former UA President, Dr. David Matthews, acknowledged the need to involve black faculty in helping to address the students’ call for change. During that turbulent decade, the Black Faculty and Staff Association, along with the Afro-American Association, worked assiduously to improve the conditions on campus for black students, staff, and faculty. Among the many achievements of the two organizations, during that time, were securing commitments from the Administration to:
- bring more black speakers and entertainers to campus;
- to locate sorority and fraternity on campus for NPHC chapters; and
- to increase the number of black faculty and staff
In those early years, numerous individuals contributed to a collective effort to ensure black faculty, staff, and students had a voice at the Capstone. While we cannot summon up all the key players, we will mention some individuals who were instrumental in forming the Association: Dr. Joffre Whisenton, first black to earn a PhD at the University of Alabama, Dr. Archie Wade retired faculty, Attorney Donald Watkins, Dr. Arthur Dunning, Dr. Leon Chestang, past Dean of UA’s School of Social Work; Dr. Harold Bishop, one of the first black professors, 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 served as BFSA President for more than seven years and was a leader in solidifying the Association’s involvement with black students on this campus.
Throughout the years, other milestones were reached. 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. Two years later, Dr. Charles Brown became 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.
In 2004, history made again when Dr. Samory Pruitt, former BFSA president, became the first African American to be named a permanent vice president at The University. Dr. Pruitt serves as the Vice President for Community Affairs.
Most recently, the Association established the BFSA Student Scholarship Fund to support high achieving students with demonstrated need. Faculty, staff, and other stakeholders are encouraged to donate to the fund so that we can assist students facing financial hardship.
The Black Honors Day celebration recognizes the hundreds of African American students that are achieving academic success, and is held during Honors Week each Spring semester. The Association will begin in Fall, 2015 with a Black Scholars program to promote and encourage the participation of African American students who are eligible for the University Honors College.
BFSA continues to have a strong presence at The University of Alabama, and its members include professionals from across the campus. The Association meets each month during the regular school calendar year. The Association remains committed to working with the U.A. System and University leaders to make sure that UA is pursuing equity and excellence for the entire campus community.