Our History

The history of the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) has been cyclical in nature, with several periods of tremendous enthusiasm and low-level doldrums.

The BFSA evolved from an ad hoc group in 1972-73 to a formal association on October 14, 1974, when seventeen persons assembled for the initial meeting under the leadership of the efforts of four persons: Ralph Boston, Marvin Peak, Dennie Littlejohn, and Patricia Bell Scott. Despite their rather meager numbers and a lack of interest, the association developed a constitution and identified a number of significant objectives:

  • Recruitment of Black faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students
  • Retention, promotion, and tenuring of Black faculty and staff persons
  • Work to increase opportunities so that the social, psychological, academic, and economic needs of Black students can be better met
  • Provide a vehicle to increase interaction between the Black faculties and staff throughout the university system and those in Knoxville
  • Provide expertise that can be utilized in bringing about better extra- and intra-university race relations
  • Bring together Black UT personnel for mutual, social, and political needs
  • Help Black awareness at the university through speakers, entertainment, films, books, and related activities
  • Work with individual Black students, as well as the various Black university organizations, in a support and advisory capacity
  • Provide a Black scholarly atmosphere by sponsoring lectures, book review sessions, and similar programs.

With Ralph Boston, the noted Olympian, as its first president, BFSA met regularly in members’ homes, created a dues structure ($20.00/year), developed a minority scholarship fund ($3,387.80), initiated a campus and community-wide voter registration drive, conducted a research symposium on African American issues (Mt. Zion Baptist Church), published research papers, produced a Black faculty/staff directory (1975), and brokered the opening of the first Black Cultural Center (1975), under the direction of Dennie Littlejohn.

It is interesting to note that in 1975, there were forty-two full-time faculty (one full professor), almost exclusively at the non-tenured, assistant professor level. The undergraduate Black student enrollment had declined from 659 to 595.

The years 1987–1989 witnessed a significant increase in the numbers and profile of African Americans at UT. The dean of the College of Law was an African American, as were two associate deans, (College of Social Work, J. Jennings; College of Arts & Sciences, C. Woods) and an associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, Hardy Liston. Four departments had African American heads: Department of Agricultural Economics, Handy Williamson; Department of German, Carolyn Hodges; Department of History, John Morrow; and the Department of Political Science, Lenneal Henderson. Today there are currently no African American department heads at UT. In an informal study conducted in 1996 by Ira Harrison, BFSA historian, it was revealed that African American faculty remained at UT an average of 6.08 years and 6.8 years.

Provided by Dr. Ronald McFadden.