Since the first class moved into Afrikan Heritage House in 1972, it has been a place of black cultural expression and tradition. This gallery is a small representation of life inside this inspirational house.
The largest Program House on south campus is Lord-Saunders, also known as Afrikan Heritage House, A-House, and The House. This contemporary building overlooking South Bowl is a designated safe space for students of the African Diaspora and other students interested in learning about Africana culture. A-House is the center of activity for students of all levels who want to heighten their understanding of cultures, traditions, and issues among African, African American, and Afrikan Caribbean societies.
In connection with Oberlin’s Black History Month celebration, Reverend James Lawson visits A-House to lead a mini-course on nonviolent conflict. The mini-course focussed on understanding the use of strategic nonviolent conflict to bring about social and political transformation.
During the civil rights movement, Lawson held a nonviolent civil disobedience philosophy. He helped lead and organize some of the first student sit-ins, which later spread throughout the South. He also participated in the Freedom Rides.
Actor and director Avery Brooks '70 plays piano during his visit to A-House. Brooks was the featured guest at a "community conversation" event that included dance and song.
Visiting Chef Vel Scott stands in the busy Lord-Saunders dining hall. Earlier that day, Scott shared her recipes and cooking tips with Campus Dining Services. The result was a meal prepared with soul. “Soul food is how you prepare it," said Scott. "It comes from the earth, then we each put in our flavors, our love, our cultural background. It’s good for the soul.”
Altona "Toni" Johns Anderson, a descendant of Vernon Johns, Class of 1918, speaks with a student at the 26th Annual Vernon Johns Celebration in Afrikan Heritage House. Vernon Johns was one of the pioneers of the civil rights movement.
A tradition that has been around since the 1970s, a soul session is an opportunity for individuals to express themselves creatively through spoken word, dance, music, poetry, or song. Sometimes audience members are so moved that they toss shoes at the feet of the individual giving the performance to show respect and appreciation.
Kwanzaa, traditionally celebrated from December 26 to January 2, is a nationally recognized holiday started in the 1960s. The holiday is aimed at uniting black families through heritage and cultural tradition.
Umoja, Swahili for "unity," is one of seven principals of Kwanzaa that greet visitors as they enter the Afrikan Heritage House lounge. These words, carved in word, surround the walls of the lounge. They are: Imani (faith), kuumba (creativity), nia (purpose), ujima (collective responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), and kujichagulia (self-determination).
The House prayer is said in unison before dinner. A plaque that hangs on the wall of both dining spaces reads: "One hand to give. One hand to receive. As we eat in umoja. May our minds, bodies and spirits grow stronger to enable us to build a better world for African people."
In the late 1960s, Oberlin allocated spaces on campus for those with an interest in African heritage. The house moved to its present location in Lord-Saunders in1972.
- Thomas Abeyta - Erik Andrews - Ben Garfinkel '14 - Yvonne Gay - Michael Hartman - Zachary Jamieson '15 - Derek Mahone '22 - Dale Preston '83 - Tanya Rosen-Jones '97 - John Seyfried - Oberlin College Archives