In the 1990s
In the early 1990s, the office of Minority Student Affairs was created at VCU, and the university actively expanded programs for minority students. This represented a positive, early indication of VCU’s support for African American Studies as well as its student programs. Dr. W. Avon Drake, assistant professor in Political Science, became Coordinator of the Afro-American Studies Program in 1986, and his leadership continued until 1993. Dr. Drake changed his title from coordinator to director, and he gained support for the African American Studies Program by introducing a Distinguished Lecture Series.
In 1994, Dr. Drake initiated a 20-year-anniversary celebration of African American Studies in conjunction with the Black Education Association. The program marked this anniversary with a symposium called “African American Males and Black Family Life.” Dr. Drake also proposed a partnership with the African American Research Institute.
The 1990s welcomed greater student demand for a major in African American Studies. In 1995, Dr. Ann Creighton-Zollar was appointed to serve as Director of the African American Studies Program. She and other faculty members worked tirelessly to present a proposal for a major to VCU’s Board of Visitors, administrators, and the State Council of Higher Education [SCHE]. Despite repeated revisions of the proposal and strong student demand, senior officials in the SCHE opposed it. One individual said that the program would “Balkanize” the university campus by “segregating” certain topics into the African American Studies major. This individual insisted that race and ethnicity based discussions should occur in all of VCU’s classes
VCU students and faculty disagreed with these objections. Students and some officials held a public protest at Shafer Court in 1997. VCU’s Board of Visitors reaffirmed its endorsement of the program. Still, in 1997, the SCHE rejected the proposal. Multiple editorials in the Richmond Times Dispatch debated the issue, and the Richmond city was in an uproar. Students had to wait for state-level officials to respond to their demands.