Since its founding in early 1970s, the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center on Washtenaw Avenue has expanded to provide resources and support for numerous student groups. But when the center first opened in October of 1972 under the name “Black Center,” it was charged with a very specific mission — as a dedicated space for Black students, faculty and staff.
The center grew out of demands during on-campus protests in 1970 by the Black Action Movement, which had the principle goal of increasing minority enrollment in the University. At the time, black students made up less than 5 percent of the student body.
In March of 1970, after the University’s Board of Regents didn’t comply with a list of demands, BAM leaders led an eight-day long strike, shutting down the Residential College and School of Social Work and causing attendance in LSA classes to drop by an estimated 75 percent.
It was in this context that the “Black Center” was established. At about the same time, the University made other efforts to address the concerns raised during the Black Action Movement strike, including adding cultural lounges and improving racial sensitivity training in the residence halls.
The first home of the center was on South University Avenue, where the School of Social Work now stands. The center, which now takes its name from political activist William Monroe Trotter, was relocated to its current home on Washtenaw Avenue after its first building burned down.
In 1981, the center’s focus was broadened to include support and resources for all University students, regardless of race or ethnicity.The center’s current mission statement reflects this new objective.
“Through our programs and services that foster community development, leadership, learning, and a commitment to social justice, we endeavor to create a campus inclusive of all students,” the statement reads.