In 1976, Dr. Jacqueline A. Kane became Director of the Resource Center on Women in Higher Education with the New York State Education Department. In this capacity, she became concerned about what could be done to assist affirmative action officers. She was directed to assist in the recruitment and promotion of Black women. In April 1977, Jackie convened a committee of Black women from across NY State to plan a conference for June 5-7, 1977. This committee included women involved in Opportunity Programs, foundations, community-based organizations, as well as faculty, staff and administrators. It was decided the conference theme should be the “elimination of Institutional Policies and Practices that Adversely Affect Black Women’: That conference was attended by approximately 7 5 participants who recommended that the Center organize a second conference to be held January 23-25, 1978, in Albany with the theme “Black Women in Higher Education.” The participants of this second conference decided that it was time to start an organization.
For the next year and a half, with continuing support from the Resource Center, a group of women met to form what was to become the Association of Black Women in Higher Education and to sponsor a conference to launch the organization. Dr. Patricia Carey introduced the group to the Institute of Afro-American Affairs at New York University which became host for eight of the nine conferences at the University. The first conference was attended by approximately 200 participants. There was enthusiastic support for ABWHE, and a modest membership campaign began. Most of the initial energy was focused on the annual conference and providing an organizational framework. At the end of the first full year, 21 women had joined ABWHE.
Today, ABWHE has five chapters nationwide. Since its inception, ABWHE has served as a forum for developing strategies to improve the quality of education of Black people, with particular emphasis on encouraging Black youth to take full advantage of available educational opportunities. ABWHE is committed to aiding Black women in the academy in fulfilling their own aspirations as well as encouraging black youth to pursue their education.
Dr. Valerie Dorsey Allen