An air of excitement fills campus, as 10 students stand outside of Georgetown University President, Timothy Healy’s office demanding that more minority students be accepted into the school and a support system be put in place to monitor and track Black students who enroll. Most importantly the students request a space be provided for Black students to congregate and speak about pertinent issues affecting their community.
The year was 1972. That space is now called the Black House.
Forty years after its establishment, the Black House continues to serve as a place of academic and social enlightenment for minority students. Each year the university selects four students to live in the Black House through a rigorous application and interview process. Black House residents are required to host several programs throughout the year.
These events include presidential debate watch parties, a “Welcome Back” event for students at the beginning of the Fall semester and an ABC’s Scandal watch night every Thursday evening.
Aya Waller-Bey a Junior at Georgetown University student and current “Black House” resident says, “This year, the residents of the Black House have really made attempts to increase the involvement of residents in the greater Georgetown community. Our goal was to foster an environment where students felt encouraged to utilize the Black House for its resources. We have an open door policy during the evening hours and we wanted to make sure that people felt like they could stop by and fellowship with us.”
Aya and her three other roommates Yasmin Serrato, David Price and Jaren Davis-Nkop represent Georgetown’s increased minority population.
Though the university’s history spans the course of 223 years, Black students have only been allowed to attend Georgetown for the past 64 years.
According to Georgetown University’s student newspaper, The Hoya, Samuel Hasley Jr. was the first Black student admitted to Georgetown University. Hasley was accepted into the School of Foreign Service and graduated in 1953. He had previously studied at North Carolina A&T and Howard University before applying to Georgetown as a transfer student.
Prior to accepting Hasley, Georgetown University was hesitant to admit Black students to the university though other universities had already begun to do so. In 1823, Middlebury College in Vermont became the first institution to admit Black undergraduates in 1823. Harvard University and Yale University began admitting Black students in 1870 and 1874 respectively.
Founded in 1789 by John Carroll, Georgetown University is the oldest Jesuit and Catholic University in the United States. Throughout the span of its history the university has produced several influential alumni, including former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. In 1947, University President Fr. Lawrence Gorman, S.J., requested that the university begin admitting Black students. However, his request was not immediately honored.
Since Georgetown’s admission of its first Black student the university has made several efforts to accommodate its minority population. These efforts include the Black House, which is tasked with meeting regularly to discuss the progress of house residents, design selection process for future students and evaluate the house constitution. In addition to the board, the university also sponsors the Student Alliance of Color and an on-campus student publication for students of color, The Fire This Time.
Residents of the Georgetown University Black House have the opportunity to become involved with the greater university community and make life lifelong friends. “My roommates are all so different but amazing. We formed a bond instantly and they have been such a great support system. We all support one another and have devised a very open communication system, which helps when one roommate is going through a stressful week and needs help with their program or chores,” says Aya. “I have never felt as fulfilled as a student as I do now living as a resident of the Black House.”