The African American presence at KU is historic and long-standing, if sparse. African American students began matriculating at KU during the 1870s, with Blanche Keteen Bruce becoming the first African American graduate in 1885. Also, KU hired its first AA faculty member in 1959. And, of course, since KU's early beginnings, African Americans have served as laborers and staff members.
After the years-long period of student unrest and protest (culminating in the Kansas Union fire in 1970), an African American was hired as associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. The Department of African and African American Studies was established in 1970. Two years later, the Office of Minority Affairs, reporting directly to the Chancellor, was established. Additionally, KU launched attempts to hire minority faculty and staff in response to the Lawrence Black community and KU Black Student Union demands. The Academic Affairs Office initiated recruitment efforts among school and college deans for minority faculty and staff hires. Regular meetings with KU central administration and the few minority faculty and staff members (about a dozen) on campus were held. Informal and formal social gatherings among minority faculty and staff in Lawrence and Kansas City were held to help maintain and improve morale and a sense of belonging at the predominantly white campus (also as a response to the legacy of segregation in Lawrence that preceded Wilt Chamberlain’s arrival to play basketball). These gatherings led to discussions of organizing a more formal black faculty and staff caucus or constituency at KU. The formation of the Black Faculty and Staff Council in 1975 was the culmination of those efforts.