The African American Student Experience at Illinois: The Early Years – March 29, 2017

The African American Student Experience at Illinois: The Early Years

Wednesday, March 29, 2017, University of Illinois Archives, Rm 146 Library, 1408 West Gregory, Urbana, 7pm-8:30pm. Exhibits of items from the archives will be on display. Refreshments (courtesy of the Library Diversity Committee) will be provided. 

Opening Remarks by Chancellor Robert Jones

Tamara L. Hoff, Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Illinois Chicago – “From Margin to Center:” Black Women Students at the University of Illinois

Maudelle Brown Bousfield ‘06, First African American female graduate (Illio yearbook, 1907)

The first known black women students enrolled at the University of Illinois (U of I) at the dawn of the 20th century. As soon as their numbers permitted, they began organizing on behalf of the academic, social, and cultural needs of black women students. Using archival data, this presentation explores how the earliest black women at the U of I understood the aims and value of education in relation to gender and racial progress.

Vanessa Rouillon, Assistant Professor, James Madison University – ‘Doing much to elevate the race’— The work of Bethel A.M.E. Church, Albert R. Lee, and the African American community in Champaign, IL

Albert Lee, unofficial Dean of African American Students

Drawing from archival findings at the University of Illinois, public and private repositories, and oral testimonies she collected from church congregants, Dr. Vanessa Rouillon, examines the early twentieth century rhetorical practices of Bethel A.M.E. Church, whose congregants produced “alternative” racial discourses, and relocated it safely in their own homes and communities. She contends Bethel became a crucial activist site for both its members, some of whom have engaged most of their private lives in historical and archival practices, and for the black university students who availed themselves of Bethel’s educational, literary, and social offerings, when comparable university places did not fully (or comfortably) accommodate them.


Tamara L. Hoff

Tamara L. Hoff is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She teaches a doctoral course on Urban Contexts and Educational Research. She has also taught a graduate course on educational philosophy to in-service teachers and an undergraduate course on gender and education to pre-service teachers at DePaul University. She specializes in the history of American education, with a focus on African American women in higher education. Her research examines the history of the earliest African American women who attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) during the early 20th century. Using archival data, she explores how African American women at UIUC understood the aims and value of higher education in relation to gender and racial progress.

Dr. Hoff obtained a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is a former American Educational Research Association Minority Dissertation Fellow (2012), as well as a Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois Fellow (2011-2015). She was recently selected as a 2017 Surge Institute Fellow. She has received multiple awards and recognition from UIUC for her research, teaching and service. She continues to volunteer as a leadership certificate coach for undergraduates through the University of Illinois Leadership Center. When she is not teaching at UIC, she tutors Chicago Public School students in mathematics. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Vanessa Rouillon

Dr. Vanessa Rouillon is an Assistant Professor at the School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication (WRTC) in James Madison University (Harrisonburg, VA) and Faculty Associate at the University Writing Center at JMU. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a doctoral degree in English and a Specialization in Writing Studies in 2013. She specializes in teaching freshman composition, where her students have consistently used archival holdings to engage in citizenship and historical projects. She also teaches rhetorical theory and methods and visual rhetoric. Her research centers around community writing—prison literacies and African American rhetorics. She is currently working on a book project informed by her dissertation and by the archives of a local African American man, in Champaign, IL, Albert R. Lee.




Bethel AME Church Sunday School class (including Illinois students), early 1900s (Courtesy of the Museum of the Grand Prairie, Mahomet, Illinois)


Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, Charter Members of Gamma Chapter, 1914

This event is sponsored by the University Library with support from the Department of History and the School of Information Sciences.