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History 102-6: Where Am I?: History of Northwestern And Evanston Research Guide (Harris)

Controversial Topics

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No sketch of #BlackHistory at Northwestern is complete without the story of Isabella Ellis. Her experience greatly impacted the course of race relations at Northwestern University, and we begin our #LibraryBlackHistory #WednesdayChallenge with her story. . In 1902, Ellis was denied housing at Chapin Hall, an all-women residence administrated by the Women’s Educational Aid Association (WEAA). When Ellis had reserved a room the year before, her race was unknown. Thus, the WEAA were compelled to accommodate her despite student complaints. However, upon her second year, she was turned away with the excuse that she was occupying a double room by herself, an arrangement that “the university could not afford” (the WEAA’s decision pictured). Ellis had actually listed no preferences for a roommate and upon arrival, not only had her intended roommate refused to room with her, none of the other students would either. And when a second black student applied for a room at Chapin Hall, she was rejected because “all rooms [were] occupied.” As Ellis was made to feel unwelcome living on campus and was unable to secure off-campus housing, she was ultimately forced to withdraw from the University (clipping pictured). . Interestingly, there was a black student living in the men’s dorm for three years and no such complaints had been made at his residence, though he, too, did not live with a roommate. What the Ellis controversy did was spark talks of Northwestern’s discriminatory policies. No housing provisions were made for black students until 1947 when students and faculty petitioned to establish the International House, the first truly integrated housing on Northwestern’s campus. In the petition, Ellis and her story of discrimination were repeatedly evoked as an example of the university failing to respond to student needs and be ahead of the societal curve. . #blackhistoryeveryday #blackhistorymatters #blackhistory #blackhistoryeducation #desegregation #nuarchives #universityarchives #archivesofinstagram #hashtagchallenge #iglibraries #nuhistory @iglibraries

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