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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

The rundown of Black History Month at Wofford College

Photo+courtesy+of+Mark+Olencki.%0ARussell+Wigginton+talking+to+students+on+campus.+Wigginton+was+one+of+many+speakers+that+visited+Wofford+during+Black+History+Month.+
Photo courtesy of Mark Olencki. Russell Wigginton talking to students on campus. Wigginton was one of many speakers that visited Wofford during Black History Month.

Throughout the month of February, Wofford has put on events all over campus that draw attention to black voices and celebrate Black History Month. Through the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dwain Pruitt, the college’s chief equity officer, has been able to bring speakers on campus to discuss their respective fields of interest. 

Although Black History Month events are usually sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Dean of Students, Pruitt has been able to dive right in and assume responsibility for organizing the majority of the events that happened throughout the month. 

In this way, he was able to put his own personal flare on what he believes Black History Month should look like on campus. 

“I started planning around Civil Rights and the story of African Americans and then when we had the snow on (Martin Luther) King Day,” Pruitt said. “Many of the events that we wanted to have got displaced and so we moved those events to Black History Month. Then, I planned a schedule where I could thematically link those events.”

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The month’s events focused on topics like the politics of African American memory, Critical Race Theory and contemporary politics on race. Through this, Pruitt was able to highlight speakers including Russell Wigginton, president of the National Civil Rights Museum; Douglas Clark, visiting professor of religion; and Ricky Jones, USA Today Network columnist and host of “The Ricky Jones Show”. 

Pruitt’s goal is for representation to reach beyond just one month of the year.

“I want to normalize having black scholars or people who are scholars of the black experience coming to campus all throughout the year,” Pruitt said. “I do not want for us to reduce black history to February, women history to March or Queer history to September.”

While the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion has been able to bring more events on campus, students have also played a large role in making sure that Black History Month received representation. One organization that was able to exemplify this is Wofford’s Black Student Alliance (BSA), led by Ashley Manigault ‘24.  

“This month, we really wanted to have events that would bring Black students together in a positive way,” Manigault said. “Over the course of this month we have had our Wings and Sings event, a series of round table discussion catering to the Black experience, as well as an upcoming guest speaker from the Riverstone Counseling Center, and our Black Culture Festival.” 

Although many events were brought on campus, many students like Yasmin Lee ‘23 believe that there is more work to be done before the campus is truly able to celebrate the month. 

“I feel like we should have more emphasis on sharing unknown history,” Lee said. “Because I am not sure if everyone on campus is familiar with Lyndon B. Johnson or if they are aware of the impact that Tyra Banks had on the modeling industry. Little things like that – they do still matter.”

Another change that students hope to see in the future is participation in Black History Month events by the non-black community on campus. 

“Honestly, I have only gotten a ‘happy Black History Month’ from black people,” Lee said. “So just making sure that people know that Black History Month is not just celebrated by Black people is important.”

Ashley Manigault agreed with these sentiments. 

“I think that the BHM events have been very important and positive for not only Black students and staff, but for the Wofford community as a whole,” Manigault said. “Looking back on this month, my only concern was the lack of participation from non-Black students and staff as there were several events that were open to all students and faculty but still had low engagement.”

Nevertheless, Wofford College is taking steps in the right direction and making progress. 

“As president of Black Student Alliance this year, I have noticed that more Black students feel comfortable expressing themselves and as if they have found a positive community of people they can relate to,” Manigault said. “There is still a lot more work to be done to improve Wofford’s Black community, but I am proud of the progress we have achieved this year.” 

Despite this being his first year as a faculty member on campus, Pruitt agreed that the Wofford community is seeing change and making great strides. 

“There wasn’t any of this when I was a student,” Pruitt said. “I did Black History Month when I was a student here.”

As Wofford continues forward through the year, there are still many more months to be celebrated, including Women’s History Month which began with the start of March.

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