Voices and Visions: The Kirkus Review

We are pleased to share the full review of Voices and Visions: The Evolution of the Black Experience at Northwestern University, authored by Immediate Past-Present Jeffrey Sterling and past NUBAA Vice-President Lauren Lowery. Needless to say, we’re blown away! We think our history is pretty awesome too!


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The Evolution of the Black Experience at Northwestern University

Jeffrey E. Sterling and Lauren Lowery

CreateSpace (560 pp.)

$50.00 hardcover, $40.00 paperback, $9.99 e-book

ISBN: 978-0-692-12737-7; May 25, 2018


A wide-ranging history of the evolving experience of African-Americans at Northwestern University.

While historians have often neglected to record the accomplishments of African-Americans, there has always been an alternative fount of information on the black experience in America: a vibrant oral tradition. Debut author Lowery and Sterling (Behind the Curtain, 2016) aim to capture the lessons of that tradition in writing by presenting the history of the black experience at Northwestern University through a series of interviews with its notable black graduates. They cover a broad swath of historical terrain—campus life, the experience of the black athlete, the tumultuous emergence of black activism, and the transformation of the institution from one that once excluded blacks from living on campus to one that makes a concerted effort to welcome them. The authors both movingly and meticulously depict that transformation. In 1902, Isabella Ellis’ first roommate protested sharing living quarters with a black roommate, and in the same year, Northwestern officially adopted a policy of housing segregation, not overturned until 1953. Another graduate, Stanley L. Hill, was surprised to find the campus a tinderbox of activism even after so much watershed civil rights legislation had passed by the mid-’60s, and he participated in the takeover of the bursar’s office in 1968. The sum result of this institutional evolution is not a campus without prejudice but one committed to the development of each student regardless of race. According to the current provost: “There are unique needs across communities that are driven by different sets of cultural experiences, racial experiences, class-based experiences, etc., but I think it’s always important to articulate that fact that we are going to do the best we can so that every student can just be a student.”

Both Lowery and Sterling graduated from Northwestern, and Sterling serves as president of the Northwestern University Black Alumni Association (Lowery once served as its vice president). The authors’ enthusiastic devotion to the university is constantly evident, and their knowledge of the institution’s history is breathtaking. One can only imagine the hours of labor it took to conduct and record dozens of thoughtful interviews. The result is rare: a massive archive of historical information that is not only a valuable scholarly reference, but a readable book brimming with insight and drama. Also, Lowery and Sterling supply an unvarnished account of a complex evolution that isn’t a simple triumph of good over evil. Alexandria Bobbitt graduated in 2016 and recounts her encounter with “blatant racism” despite years of progress and hard-won improvement. The authors clearly intended to capture the totality of the black experience, one that inevitably includes not only collegiate success and acceptance, but also the struggle against a prejudice that has proved remarkably persistent. They vividly limn the history of a people, of the diminishing but stubborn forces that discriminate against them, and the metamorphosis of the institution that ultimately championed their cause. This is an astonishingly instructive book and should be read by all Northwestern students and faculty, African-American and otherwise.

A painstakingly researched and affecting study.


The book is available in various ways (click on the links to be taken to the purchase sites, or you can just go to bit.ly/NUVisions). Remember, proceeds from VnV go to support The NUBAA Achievement Scholarship and The NUBAA Promise Scholarship.

Hardcover – $50

Paperback – $40

Kindle – $9.99

Go Cats! 

Telling It Like It Was: From The NUBAA Archives to Voices and Visions – Get Your Copy!

On this, the last full day of the 2014-2018 NUBAA administration, the mind wanders to legacy: not of an administration, but of our history at Northwestern. Back in 2013, Lauren Lowery approached me with a notion she’d been working on: the development of an archive dedicated to the Black experience at Northwestern University. She graciously allowed me to join her in founding and bringing to fruition what is now The NUBAA Archives.

Well, the NUBAA Archives was never meant to be simply a collection of documents but a means of directing and telling the history of our experience from the vantage point of the Black community. To that end, in 2017 I was able to return the favor of work(!) to Lauren on an ambitious project to create the first comprehensive telling of the journey and history of African-Americans and other Blacks at Northwestern University. Voices and Visions: The Evolution of the Black Experience at Northwestern University does just that, through study of our history and first-hand accounts from over fifty individuals who have had pivotal roles in the advancement of that experience.

Voices Book Cover Final

Here is the Table of Contents from this book that totals over 550 pages. As you can tell from the amazing roster of contributors, this is a robust telling of an approximately 140-year history.



Section I: Early Northwestern

  1. The Earliest Black Attendees of Northwestern University
  2. History of Desegregating Housing at Northwestern University
  3. Dr. Michael Nabors: The Evanston Community and the Northwestern Black Student Experience

Section II: The Black Athlete and the Black Experience

  1. Norm Comer
  2. Jim Pitts
  3. Dee Todd
  4. Joseph Webb
  5. Rishal Dinkins
  6. Katrina Adams
  7. Ricky Byrdsong
  8. Oliver Kupe
  9. Daryl Newell

Section III: Birth of a Community: The 1968 Takeover of the Bursar’s Office

  1. Stanley
  2. Herman Cage
  3. Daphne Maxwell Reid
  4. Steve Colson
  5. Victor Goode
  6. Wayne Watson
  7. Kathryn Ogletree
  8. John Bracey
  9. Eva Jefferson Paterson
  10. Participants in the Bursar’s Office Takeover

Section IV: The Black House / Caring for the Community

  1. Milton Wiggins
  2. Alice Palmer
  3. Karla Spurlock-Evans
  4. Ulysses “Duke” Jenkins
  5. Jerre Michelin
  6. Penny Warren
  7. Debra Blade
  8. Kathleen Bethel
  9. Ce Cole Dillon
  10. Tamara Johnson
  11. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson

Section IV: Growth of the Black Experience

  1. Andre Bell
  2. Henry Binford
  3. Robert Moore
  4. Stanley Davis
  5. Aldon Morris
  6. Jabari Asim
  7. Harris Lennix
  8. Asadah Kirkland
  9. Black Greek Letter Organizations

Section V: New Challenges

  1. Charles Whitaker
  2. Tanya D. Woods
  3. Sarah Oberholtzer
  4. Macs Vinson
  5. Kasey Brown
  6. Paula Pretlow

Section VI: Modern Evolution of the Black Experience & A New Future

  1. Alexandria Bobbitt
  2. Charla Wilson
  3. Phil Harris
  4. Sonia Waiters
  5. Michael Wilbon
  6. Jabbar Bennett
  7. Jonathan Holloway
  8. Jeffrey Sterling

Voices and Visions will be released on Monday, July 9th. You can order your copy in either paperback or hard cover at bit.ly/NUVisions. Proceeds of the book will be donated to the NUBAA Achievement Scholarship.

Use the below contact form to be invited to a stop on our upcoming national book tour and to receive other information about Voices and Visions. Thank you for entrusting us to be stewards and caretakers of this history. We look forward to ongoing development and expansion of our stories for years to come.

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Finally, we leave you with words adorning the back cover of the book, provided by double Wildcat Johnnetta S. Cole.

This highly important book shares the experiences of African American students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni who studied, worked, struggled and triumphed at Northwestern University. The compelling stories of African Americans who are currently at the university are also told in this volume. Learning from these voices can lead to a far fuller understanding of Black experiences at Northwestern. For as the Ibo people of Nigeria say: Until lions have their own historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. 

Voices and Visions is an invaluable resource as we continue to advocate for policies and procedures that can lead to a greater Black presence at Northwestern and a more inclusive culture on the campus.  Kudos to Dr. Jeffrey Sterling and Lauren Lowery, co-founders of NUBAA Archives, for writing a book we have been waiting for.

Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Ph.D.

C’59 and C’67

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