UW-Eau Claire pays tribute to Black History Month and all those involved

‘Milestones in the Black Civil Rights Movement’ is on display in Davies this week

Madeline Fuerstenberg

More stories from Madeline Fuerstenberg

November 2, 2020

Photo by Madeline Fuerstenberg

The stories of influential figures in African-American history are on display in Davies for all to see.

The month of February is dedicated to the remembrance of the struggles, injustices and triumphs of the Civil Rights Movement, and all those that came before or after. UW-Eau Claire’s Student Affairs and Dean of Students Office memorialized those historic African-American visionaries through the construction of the “Milestones in the Black Civil Rights Movement” timeline.

The display, located on the second floor of Davies Student Center, features pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement from the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

Michael Thomas — the student services coordinator in the Office of Multicultural Affairs — initiated the project, which was ultimately carried-through by Joseph Abhold, Joshua Engle and Morgan Babcock.

Abhold, Eau Claire’s dean of students, was approached by Thomas with the notion of using the Dean of Students Office to show support for Black History Month and to reach the student body.

After a brief brainstorming session with Thomas, Abhold, Engle and Babcock settled on a timeline format for the display.

“We thought it would be a good way to just educate the campus about the roles of African-Americans in higher education and the progress of black history,” Abhold said. “I really hope people will find it and explore it.”

While Eau Claire has celebrated Black History Month for several years now, Abhold said the university has made things “bigger” this year, bringing a combination of entertainment and education to a community gathering-like setting. He said his hope for this year’s celebration is that students learn new information about black history — facts they didn’t know before.

“I think it’s important for people to learn about black history because it’s something that’s often left out of our history classes,” Abhold said. “It seems that every black history event I go to, I learn something that I didn’t know about the important role that African-Americans have played in our country.”

Engle, student assistance coordinator in the Dean of Students Office, said he shared Abhold’s idealistic hopes for the Black History Month display. He also brought forth the issue of cultural diversity within the Eau Claire student body.

“It’s important for our campus to have and to celebrate diversity,” Engle said. “I think this is one way that students can get more acclimated to other cultures — other diversity — and understand the history of different races.”

Though the display itself primarily consists of photos and descriptions of events directly relating to the Civil Rights Movement, a collection of books and DVDs adjourn the bottom shelf. Engle said they were put on display to show the students there are other ways in which they can get engaged with African-American history.

“The more we can appreciate and celebrate other races — other cultures — the more we can better understand how we can all really learn from one another,” Engle said.

While the concept and design came from many sources, the final construction of “Milestones in the Black Civil Rights Movement” was done by Babcock, a graduate assistant in the Dean of Students Office. A self-proclaimed lover of projects and history, Babcock said she shared Engle’s and Abhold’s desire to educate the students in a unique and eye-catching way.

“I think displays like this are important because it educates the student community,” she said. “I’m just really hoping that people are actually just really intrigued by it.”

Babcock said she was excited to see her work had made it onto the Eau Claire Snapchat Story, and she is hopeful that it will gain more attention over the course of the week.

“Milestones in the Black Civil Rights Movement” will remain on display outside of the Activities, Involvement and Leadership office for the remainder of the week.