Department History/Oscar Ritchie Hall | Kent State University

Department History/Oscar Ritchie Hall

In the late1960s African American students at Kent State University demanded through the Black United Students (BUS) organization that the university curriculum significantly reflect their historical and contemporary experience.  This activism resulted in the creation of the Institute for African American Affairs (IAAA) in 1969, the Center of Pan-African Culture (CPAC) in 1970, and in 1976 the Department of Pan-African Studies (PAS) which is still referred to as “the house that BUS built.”

The building in which the Department of Pan-African Studies is located was dedicated in 1977 to the late Dr. Oscar Ritchie, who in 1947 was the first black faculty member to be hired at Kent State or any other predominantly white university in Ohio.  Since 1997, the Department has occupied all three floors, including the return of the African Community Theatre from Franklin Hall in 1998.  The University ordered the complete renovation of the facility during 2007-2008.  On October 9, 2009, President Lefton rededicated the facility in honor of Dr. Oscar W. Ritchie (1909-1967).   Dr. Ritchie was the first African American to teach in Ohio’s public university system.  The facility was first dedicated in his honor in 1977. 

The Department has had a relatively short existence on the Kent State University campus, 40 years; and, students and faculty come to the campus unaware of the history of the Department and its constituent ancillary academic entities—the Center of Pan-African Culture, the Institute for African American Affairs, the African Community Theatre and their originators, the Black United Students (BUS).  To address this historical issue, the Department has established as policy that all classes, particularly those having high freshman and sophomore enrollments, devote the second week of classes to a discussion of how and why such institutions developed, not only on the KSU campus; but also on hundreds of college and university campuses across the nation.  A videotaped presentation has been prepared for this and related purposes.  These discussions also remind students that the Department represents Kent State University’s first institutional attempt to diversify its curricular and instructional structures.

Since the Department has had a relatively short existence on the Kent State University campus,  and students and faculty come to the campus unaware of the history of the Department, the Center of Pan-African Culture, the Institute for African American Affairs, the African Community Theatre and their originators, the Black United Students (BUS), the Department has established the policy that all classes, particularly those having high freshman and sophomore enrollments, devote the second week of classes to a discussion of how and why such institutions developed, not only on the KSU campus but also on hundreds of college and university campuses across the nation.  A videotaped presentation has been prepared for this and related purposes.