History

Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall Black Culture Center

The center was born out of an era of campus activism in the late 1960’s. African American students organized in the spring of 1968 and after a series of demonstrations and marches – then President Joseph Sutton responded by asking them to develop a document that would spell out their goals.

The student group pressed IU to increase Black faculty, admit more Black students, and introduce a Black studies programs.  By 1969, that document went before the Faculty Council and was approved.  The late Herman Hudson became the first chair of Afro-American Studies, today known as the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies. Hudson then became Vice Chancellor for Afro-American Affairs.

Hudson created the center, then known as the “Black House” which focused on supporting the teaching, research and service missions of the university, while also providing a positive and hospitable social environment for African American and African students, faculty and staff.

In 1972, Black House was relocated to a former fraternity house on campus and was renamed the Black Culture Center.  Another name change came in 1997, when the center became known as the African American Cultural Center.  Soon thereafter, plans were made to construct a new facility for the center on North Jordan Ave.

After years of effort by many IU student leaders, administrators and alumni funding was received and a new 97,000 square foot building was constructed for the center and its affiliates as well as for the Department of Theatre and Drama.  The Center moved to the current location in 2001, and in January 2002 the Neal and Marshall Black Culture Center was dedicated in honor of Indiana University’s first African American male and female graduates: Marcellus Neal, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1895, and Frances Marshall, who received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1919.

In a 2001 interview, Hudson said the center was one of his proudest accomplishments.  “Besides being a building, (it) is a symbolic structure indicating that Blacks are part of this institution, and a kind of home away from home for them to conduct both academic and social activities.”

Currently, the Neal and Marshall Black Culture Center, also known as “The House” serves as a bridge connecting Indiana University to the Black experience.  At the Center, we facilitate programs and services to promote knowledge and awareness of the Black experience.   We are committed to academic excellence, community building, providing our students with relevant services, and supporting the University’s effort to retain and recruit African American students.

Now that you have a little bit of knowledge about us, we would like to welcome you to the Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall Black Culture Center, and we look forward to continuing to build community in the future.  

Thank you and again, welcome!

Frances Marshall & Marcellus Neal

Frances Marshall Marcellus Neal

Frances Marshall and Marcellus Neal, the first female and male African American graduates of Indiana University, had their minds set on one goal—an education.

Despite the fact that African Americans were not even allowed to live on campus at the time Neal and Marshall went to IU, it was rare for a black man to go to college, let alone a woman, however, neither let these obstacles stop them from getting an education. As Marshall told the Indiana Daily Student in 1982, education was her concern, not the unfavorable conditions: “I never worried about being a woman going to school,” she said. “I never worried about being black going to school. I just went on with what I had to do.” Neal graduated in 1895 with an A.B. in Mathematics, Marshall in 1919 with an A.B. in English.

After completion of their IU education, both went on to serve in respected careers as teachers and school administrators. Neal was head of the science department at Washington High School in Dallas, Texas, for 25 years. His career was cut short by his tragic death in a hit-and-run automobile accident. Marshall enjoyed a long career as a teacher and university administrator at Edward Waters College in Florida, North Carolina Central University (she served as registrar from 1928 to 1964), Florida Memorial College, and Spelman College in Georgia.