Celebrating Black History & Culture

Celebrating a thriving community, acknowledging our history and honoring early trailblazers.

“We must live with vision.”

Expanding our knowledge of Black people, their histories and their contributions is an act of reconciliation and an expression of value for the vastness of their experiences. 

This page explores TU’s complicated history, honors the trailblazers who forged a more just campus, and highlights the students, faculty and staff whose research and advocacy continue to advance equity today. You’ll find opportunities to connect with a vibrant community of Tigers through year-round programs, groups and events.

Join us as we expand our understanding, access resources for success and gain inspiration from those who came before.

Our Community

Our community spans the African diaspora, imparting a deep history from which we offer essential perspectives as students, academics, professionals and leaders. Community groups and events connect us to those with shared experiences and helping us magnify our voice and expand our impact.

What We’re Up To

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Our History

A team of researchers is conducting the multiyear Unearthing Towson’s History Project to investigate the history of intersectional diversity at TU and record the stories of those at its forefront. Below are a few of the key milestones they’ve covered. 


Historically African American fraternities and sororities on campus.


The first time the Black Studies major is offered in the curriculum.


Number of years the Black Student Leadership Conference has been held.

Our Early Trailblazers

Julius Chapman

Transforming the future

Julius Chapman became Towson State College’s first dean of minority affairs a half-century ago. During his 12-year career, he recruited and mentored African American students while helping to establish the Black Student Union, the Black Faculty and Administrators Association and the Black Cultural Center. 

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John Gissendanner

Advocating for change

John Gissendanner was an early advocate for incorporating multicultural learning into TU’s curriculum, maintaining it would give graduates a better understanding of themselves, those around them and the world in which we live. Today, a scholarship continues the legacy of TU’s longtime Director of African American Studies.

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Barnes and Harris homecoming

Triumphing over adversity

When a Supreme Court decision opened the door to educational opportunity, Marvis Barnes ’59 and Myra Harris ’59 stepped through to enroll at the State Teachers College at Towson. Their arrival signaled the beginning of a determined, rewarding—and at times hurtful—journey. Today, two West Village residence halls are named in their honor.

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Our Modern Pioneers

Julius Chapman

Accomplishing historic firsts

Brandon Wharton ’17 was chosen as the first black editor of the Maryland Law Review, overseeing the publication’s 80th volume. A Constitutional Law and Politics class at TU inspired him to become a lawyer.

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Gabrielle Stanback

Pushing past boundaries

Gabrielle Stanback ’22 became the first Black female student to solo with the Towson University Symphony Orchestra in 2018. In 2020, she received one of 20 inaugural music innovation grants for promising young musicians. 

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Chloe and Kaylah Harvey

Creating history

Chloe ’21 and Kaylah ’23 Harvey’s screenplay "20|02" became the first student-written production to be shown at TU’s Main Stage Theatre. In it, they explore their family’s creation of the African American flag. 

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Resources and Support

African and African American studies program

The African and African American studies minor explores the historical and social experiences and cultural contributions of Africans and people of African descent in a global perspective. It also provides a critical perspective on race in American society.

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African studies research guide

Research guides from Albert S. Cook Library include materials supporting the study of African American history and culture and the African Diaspora, including databases, books, primary sources, visual and performing arts collections and more.

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Our Expertise

Ada Pinkston

Ada Pinkston

A past Diversity & Inclusion Faculty Fellow, Ada Pinkston, MFA, uses anthropological material, service learning and the history of the Hampton National Historical Site to teach about colonialism, the construction of race, and the impact of forced labor.

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Tara Blackshear

Tara Blackshear

Tara Blackshear, Ed.D., associate professor or kinesiology, co-authored Critical Race Studies in Physical Education. The resource helps teachers understand crucial issues that Black students face and learn culturally competent classroom strategies.

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Donn Worgs

Donn Worgs

Donn Worgs, Ph.D., professor of political science and director of the African & African American Studies program, explores current events within contemporary and historical contexts. His areas of expertise include Black morality politics, urban neighborhoods and revitalization.

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Our Stories

Voices of Baltimore: Life under Segregation preserves the rich oral histories of a quickly diminishing population of African Americans who attended segregated schools or experienced desegregation before and after the historic 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education ruling.

TU College of Education faculty members Gary Homana, Ph.D., and Morna McDermott McNulty, Ph.D., along with Franklin Campbell Jones, Ph.D., produced and directed the film that asks the question, “Where have we been, and where are we going?”

TU celebrates and recognizes the cultural identities and lived experiences of its community members.

We see you.

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