Memorabilia: Black Student Union

Memorabilia: Black Student Union

The Black Student Union at its peak in the mid-1970s drew students from Pacific—as well as students attending other Portland schools—to Forest Grove. Members and community leaders gathered for events, hosted seminars and attended the only Black Studies program in the region at that time.

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In 1965, there were five black students at Pacific University. The next year, there were 16. By 1970, more than 60 black students attended Pacific, and by the mid-1970s, Pacific University had one of the highest percentages of non-white students at any college on the West Coast. The Black Student Union (BSU) was formed as a community for black students.

The BSU hosted events, including seminars in which professors and community leaders discussed politics and illuminated black culture. These events were an accredited part of the Black Studies program. Students from schools such as the University of Portland and Lewis & Clark came to Pacific to gather for these events, as Pacific was the only school at that time with such a program. 

Sheila Holden ’74 remembers an annual celebration the BSU held, the Soul Food Dinner, with cultural food from across the United States and Africa. “It was a way for black students to discover for themselves and to show other students and members of the community what it was like to be black in America at that time,” she said.