An upcoming student-curated exhibit at University of Houston Libraries features the student organization Afro Americans for Black Liberation (AABL) and its success in the inception of the UH African American Studies Program in 1969.
Forged by Protest: Student Organization Afro Americans for Black Liberation (AABL) and the Genesis of the UH African American Studies Program was curated by Research for Aspiring Coogs in the Humanities (REACH) scholar Saron Regassa as an analog component of a digital project aiming to make the history of AABL accessible as an online resource. The exhibit is a collaboration between the UH department of African American Studies and UH Libraries.
In 1967, a UH sophomore, Gene Locke, created the student organization Committee for Better Race Relations (COBRR), which soon became Afro Americans for Black Liberation (AABL, pronounced “able”). On February 7, 1969, AABL presented their “10 Demands” to UH president Philip G. Hoffman, and throughout the semester, AABL rallied for support on campus. Among the demands was a call for a “Department of Afro-American Studies.” AABL’s activities led to the establishment of the UH Afro-American Program (now the department of African American Studies) later that year, making UH the first state university in Texas with such a program and one of the first in the nation. The UH African American Studies Program was granted departmental status in 2021. Tara T. Green joined the UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS) as founding chair of the department of African American Studies in 2022.
As part of the REACH project, Regassa is researching the history of AABL using archives across UH Special Collections, from student publications to UH administration records, and using the primary sources, provided the context and description for the exhibit. REACH is a year-long introductory research experience for undergraduates in humanities disciplines, and is supported by the Cougar Initiative to Engage and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Major Awards (OURMA). REACH connects students to existing UH digital humanities projects and allows them to develop research skills through mentored, first-hand scholarly inquiry and through participation in OURMA research programming. REACH participants will present their research at Undergraduate Research Day in April 2023.
The exhibit will be on display at MD Anderson Library from February 13 through March 13.